Palm Bay, Florida
"A perfect place to grow!"
|• Mayor||Rob Medina|
|• City Manager||Suzanne Sherman|
|• City||89.60 sq mi (232.05 km2)|
|• Land||86.42 sq mi (223.82 km2)|
|• Water||3.18 sq mi (8.23 km2) 4.56%|
|Elevation||19 ft (5 m)|
|• Density||1,385.82/sq mi (535.07/km2)|
|• Urban||510,675 (US: 82nd)|
|• Urban density||2,038.3/sq mi (787.0/km2)|
|• Metro||606,612 (US: 95th)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||0288389|
Palm Bay is a city in Brevard County, Florida, United States. The city's population was 119,760 at the 2020 United States census, making it the most populous city in the county and the largest by land mass. The historic section of the city lies on the mouth of the Turkey Creek and the Palm Bay. Palm Bay has historically expanded south and to the west. The newer section is mostly situated west of Interstate 95 and south of the Tillman Canal.
The earliest place names for this area on early maps of the late 1700s were Turkey Creek, Elbow Creek and Crane Creek. An 1870 map of the Indian River by John Andrew Bostrom shows the area void of any settlements within about 15 miles of Turkey Creek. The first prominent European-American settler was John Tillman in the late 1870s. Tillman's wharf marked the mouth of Turkey Creek at what became known as Palm Bay on the Indian River.
By the late 1880s, Tillman was operating a profitable orange and banana grove on the north shore of the creek. He had the most notable banana grove on the Indian River. Tillman's wharf also attracted settlers, as it was a steamboat stop.
By the mid-nineteenth century, there was a lumber operation,[clarification needed] orange groves, and packing house. Growth was slow until the arrival of the railroad in 1894. Then goods were brought in and produce was shipped to market faster.
Between 1910 and 1914, a land company known as the Indian River Catholic Colony became established at Tillman. Attempting to grow two crops a season, farmers quickly depleted the soil, and the colony failed. Those remaining built St. Joseph's Church on Miller Street, the oldest building still standing.
In the 1920s, the city was renamed as Palm Bay, after the bay bordered with sabal palm trees known as Palm Bay, located at the mouth of Turkey Creek. A group of Tillman businessmen established the Melbourne-Tillman Drainage District, and issued $1.5 million worth of bonds. Starting in 1922, a 180 miles (290 km) grid of 80 canals was dug to drain 40,000 acres (160 km2) of swampy land west of Palm Bay for other uses. The canals made it possible to control flooding and redevelop marsh lands to agricultural use. These actions had the unintended consequences of leaving the land more vulnerable to flooding from storms and destroying important habitats for complex ecology.
Farmers planted citrus groves and truck farms which shipped winter produce by the Florida East Coast Railroad to northern markets. Farmers sold timber and land to paper companies. Based on use of the Tillman and Hopkins canals, ranchers raised beef cattle in West Melbourne.
In 1926, a fire among the dredges and a severe hurricane caused extensive damage, leading to an economic downturn in Palm Bay. The Melbourne-Tillman Drainage District went bankrupt.
In 1959, General Development Corporation purchased and platted extensive tracts of land in Palm Bay for a large residential project known as Port Malabar. The city of Palm Bay incorporated on January 16, 1960. Prior to expanding its borders, the city population was 2,808 that year.
The active development of the city after that point was intertwined with GDC, which laid out and built many of the streets, sold and built many of the city's homes, and built a water treatment plant. This was later purchased by the city of Palm Bay after GDC filed for bankruptcy in 1991.
The Melbourne-Tillman Water District was revived under the auspices of the County Government. In 2019, it controlled 100 square miles (260 km2) of land.
On April 23, 1987, William Bryan Cruse Jr. (November 21, 1927 – November 29, 2009) shot and killed six people, including two college students and two police officers, at a local shopping center. He also wounded ten other people. The shooting by the 59-year-old, who was retired or unemployed and caring for a chronically ill wife, made national news. Convicted and sentenced to death, Cruse died on Florida's death row in 2009.
In October 1994 $500,000 of gold and gems stolen from a jewelry store which was at the time the largest single robbery in the city's history. Police suspected a connection with a similar robbery in May 1994 in Daytona Beach. Larry Lawton was later charged in 1996 with the crime after fingerprint evidence linked him to the crime.
In 2008, the city was named in an article from US News & World Report as the second "Drunkest City" in the US behind Reno, Nevada.
In 2008, the former Port Malabar Country Club property was revalued at $300,000. This was considered an essentially "worthless" valuation because arsenic had been found in the groundwater and remediation would cost an estimated $12 million to clean up.
Hundreds of miles of roads in the city are in such poor condition that the city Public Works Department considers them unserviceable. The voters have consistently defeated measures to raise money to invest in infrastructure to improve the roads, which are described as the worst in Brevard County. In 2005 they voted down a $58.7 million bond measure. In 2009, they defeated a $75.2 million tax referendum. In 2010, voters living in areas with the worst roads voted 9–1 against $44.7 million assessment for repairing them. In 2011, the city government created a Palm Bay Road Maintenance District that they hope can levy taxes and alleviate the situation.
In 2009, the Brevard Zoo moved the remaining 15 Florida scrub jay families native to the city to Buck Lake Conservation Area in Mims. The Florida scrub jay is a threatened species due to it being territorial; it is unable to move to better grounds when its habitat is jeopardized.
In 2010, plans were revealed by a private company to develop Emerald City, a large planned development within the city limits. The company intends to develop a multi-use, eco-friendly urban community to include residential zones consisting of townhouses, and commercial zones consisting of state-of-the-art medical facilities, research and development centers for technology firms, and urbanized retail shopping centers. As of February 2016, Emerald City is in the development phase.
City fiscal concern over firefighters' pensions rose during 2010. Firefighters' salaries averaged $71,100 annually plus $5,590 overtime pay. They were eligible for 100% of base pay after 28 years of service.
In 2012, construction began on the St. John's Heritage Parkway (also known as the Palm Bay Parkway), an arterial roadway that runs north to south along with the western limits of the city. A portion of the parkway opened to the public in 2015. The project was in development for more than a decade. It is intended to alleviate traffic for commuters on the main thoroughfares of SR 507, CR 509, and I-95. Later phases of the project will bring the roadway further south and then east following the lower city limits, eventually connecting to I-95 just north of Micco Road. A state roadway improvement project includes planned widening SR 507 (Babcock Street) from four lanes to six.
In 2015, the Harris Corporation constructed a new 464,000-square-foot technology center near Palm Bay Road and Troutman Boulevard. The building is one of the largest in the northeast section of the city and is reported to house approximately 1,400 scientists and engineers for the company.
In 2017, construction began on the southern Interstate 95 interchange and the southern portion of the St. John's Heritage Parkway. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is constructing a new diverging diamond interchange DDI on Interstate 95 just north of Micco Road within the city limits. The city is working on the southern portion of the parkway to extend from Babcock Street SE to Micco Road. The project is intended to improve traffic capacity, operations, and safety, as well as promote economic development in southern Brevard County.
The city formerly monitored some intersections with radar cameras, resulting in the issuing of traffic tickets to drivers who ran red lights. In 2013, these monitored intersections were found to be no safer than unmonitored ones. These cameras were removed in 2014.
In 2018, voters passed a referendum in the November 2018 elections, electing to fund a city-wide road repair project with a general obligation bond worth $150,000,000 payable from annual ad valorem taxes. Planning, design, and construction for the city's four quadrants are currently underway with a tentative 8-year plan projected. Construction of several units began in August 2019.
The city is often referred to in four quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast, each containing multiple zip codes. The most urban area is in Northeast. The most rural area is in Southwest, containing an area called The Compound. This area is home to Bombardier Recreational Products. “The compound” area is primarily used by recreational off road vehicles and persons engaging in various recreational activities.
During the early 1990s, Fred Poppe Regional Park (formerly Palm Bay Regional Park), a soccer and athletic complex in the western part of the city, was constructed. It is the largest of a citywide system of parks and recreation areas. The Turkey Creek Sanctuary is a small nature reserve in the northeast part of the city.
|Climate data for Palm Bay, Florida, 1991–2020 normals, extremes 2000–present|
|Record high °F (°C)||88
|Mean maximum °F (°C)||83.3
|Mean daily maximum °F (°C)||72.9
|Daily mean °F (°C)||61.0
|Mean daily minimum °F (°C)||49.0
|Mean minimum °F (°C)||33.0
|Record low °F (°C)||23
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||2.64
|Source: NOAA (mean maxima/minima 2006–2020)|
- St. Johns River; Sawgrass Lake; Lake Hell 'n Blazes; Osceola County
- Grant-Valkaria; Malabar; Indian River Lagoon
- West Melbourne; Melbourne
- Indian River County
|U.S. Decennial Census|
2010 and 2020 census
|Race||Pop 2010||Pop 2020||% 2010||% 2020|
|Black or African American (NH)||17,590||20,426||17.05%||17.06%|
|Native American or Alaska Native (NH)||349||286||0.34%||0.24%|
|Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian (NH)||50||84||0.05%||0.07%|
|Some other race (NH)||331||902||0.32%||0.75%|
|Two or more races/Multiracial (NH)||2,542||6,527||2.46%||5.45%|
|Hispanic or Latino (any race)||14,572||21,436||14.12%||17.90%|
As of 2000, 34.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.0% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.2% are non-families. 21.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.03.
In 2000, the city's population was spread out, with 26.5% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.4 males.
In 2000, the median income for a household in the city was $36,508, and the median income for a family was $41,636. Males had a median income of $31,060 versus $22,203 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,992. 9.5% of the population and 7.1% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 11.5% were under the age of 18 and 8.1% were 65 or older.
As of 2000, English spoken as a first language accounted for 88.55% of all residents, while 11.44% spoke other languages as their mother tongue. The most significant was Spanish speakers who made up 7.45% of the population.
Large employers in the city include:
- L3Harris Technologies has 3,400 employees on its Palm Bay campus on Palm Bay Road
- Intersil employed 700 people in 2010
- Palm Bay Hospital
In 2007, the average size of Palm Bay's labor force was 49,935. Of that group, 47,542 were employed and 2,393 were unemployed, for an unemployment rate of 4.8%. This figure had risen to 6,571 (12.7%) and was the highest rate in the county.
The city has some frequently visited recreational locations, such as the area known as “the compound” and the Turkey Creek area. The city has a riverfront area that the city government is attempting to further develop and focus on.
The 2015 Tough Mudder 12.5 miles (20.1 km) race drew 9,875 visitors to the area including 6,835 participants. The Brevard County Tourist Development Council spent $40,000 promoting and staging the event.
The Mayor and City Council are the legislative branch of city government; its members are the community's decision makers. The Mayor is the presiding officer at the Council Meetings and is the official head of the city for all ceremonial occasions. Power is centralized in the elected Mayor and Council (City Council), which approves the budget, determines the tax rate, focuses on the community's goals, major projects, and such long-term considerations as community growth, land use development, capital improvement plans, capital financing, and strategic planning.
In Palm Bay, a five-member Mayor and Council, operate in accordance with the City Charter. Three positions created by the Charter (Charter Officers) are appointed by and report directly to the City Council: City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk.
The City Manager is responsible for all activities related to the operations of the city. The City Manager hires a professional staff to assist in the administration and enforcement of the City Charter, ordinances, resolutions, financial conditions and all of the various procedures and policies that are required for the city to function properly. In 2011, the annual salary of the city manager was $168,000. The office of Mayor receives an annual salary of $0.20 per capita while council members receive $0.10 per capita.
- Mayor – William Capote (2016–2020)
- Deputy Mayor – Brian J. Anderson (2018–2019)
- Councilmembers – Harry Santiago Jr. (2016–2020), Kenny Johnson (2018–2022), and Jeff Bailey (2018–2022 who resigned early in 2021)
- City Manager – Suzanne Sherman
- City Attorney – Patricia Smith
- City Clerk – Terese Jones
In 2007, the city had a taxable real estate base of $5.84 billion. This amount was the largest of any municipality in the county.
In 2010, the city employed 913 full-time equivalent workers.
In 2008, the police department won an award for training patrolmen to properly collect DNA samples. At the time, they were the only police force in the world with this program.
In 2009 the utilities department had 545 miles (877 km) of water lines, 300 miles (480 km) of sewer lines, 2,250 fire hydrants, and 120 full-time equivalent employees.
The City of Palm Bay Police Department is authorized 172 sworn police officers, in addition to numerous civilian and support personnel. The police agency is broken into various sections, such as the Uniform Services Division, Support Services Division, and the Criminal Investigations Division. Each section assigns officers to various tasks, such as patrol, traffic enforcement, training officers, detectives, and similar tasks. There are three police districts within the city. Police officers are assigned to each district.
A 2009 survey indicated that the city was ranked 263 out of 400 in crime statistics, with #1 being the worst. Crimes included murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft.
Palm Bay Fire Rescue consists of about a hundred firefighters and six stations. Most firefighters work 24 hour shifts followed by 48 hours off. The Palm Bay Fire Department responded to over 12,000 calls in 2011.
In May 2008 (Mothers Day Fires) a wild fire was started that burned a total of almost 26,000 acres (11,000 ha)—40 square miles (100 km2), 30 homes were destroyed and 140 were damaged. Firefighters from Palm Bay and across the state fought the fires around the clock.
In 2006, they became the highest paid fire department in the county. In 2010, average compensation exceeded $68,000 annually. Supplements earned during a year were also eligible for retirement. Thus a 2010 retiree, a 47-year-old with a former salary of $75,540, was receiving an $86,580 pension annually.
In 2013, the city concluded an agreement with the county to furnish fire and emergency medical aid to whichever governmental unit was closer to the problem: a Palm Bay unit or a Brevard County unit.
All public schools are run by the Brevard County School Board.
Public Elementary Schools:
Public Middle School:
- Southwest Middle School
Public High Schools:
- Bayside High School
- Palm Bay High School (located in Melbourne, but serves Palm Bay and Malabar)
- Heritage High School
Major roads in Palm Bay include the following:
- U.S. 1 – This road serves the northeastern section of the city. It is intersected by three main roads: Port Malabar Boulevard, Robert J. Conlan Boulevard and Palm Bay Road.
- Interstate 95 – The major freeway serving the East Coast of the United States runs northwest to southeast through the center of the city's area. The city is served by interchanges 176 (Palm Bay Road), 173 (Malabar Road), and 166 (St. Johns Heritage Parkway).
- Babcock Street – The state road portion of Babcock Street runs through the northeastern portion of Palm Bay. It provides a route from Melbourne, just north of the city, to Malabar Road and County Road 507. Main intersections include CR 516, Port Malabar Boulevard, and SR 514.
- Babcock Street – The county road portion of Babcock Street runs through the extreme southeast portion of Palm Bay. It provides a direct route to Fellsmere in Indian River County from Brevard County. Main intersections include SR 514, Waco Boulevard, Valkaria Road/Wyoming Drive, Grant Road/Eldron Boulevard, and Cogan Drive.
- Malabar Road – The state road portion of Malabar Road connects the town of Malabar, which gives its name to the road, to eastern Palm Bay and I-95. The only main intersections are Interstate 95 and SR 507.
- Malabar Road – The county road portion of Malabar Road runs through the center of Palm Bay to CR 509. The City Hall, the Police Department and the main economic center of Palm Bay are all located on this road. Major intersections include Interstate 95, San Filippo Drive, Emerson Drive, Eldron Boulevard and CR 509.
- Palm Bay Road – This road serves the extreme northern part of Palm Bay, mainly the northeastern portion. It runs from SR 507 to CR 509. Major intersections include SR 507, Port Malabar Boulevard, Dairy Road, Hollywood Boulevard, Interstate 95, and CR 509.
- Minton Road – This road serves the western part of Palm Bay. It runs from West Melbourne to Malabar Road. Major intersections include CR 516, Emerson Drive, Americana Boulevard, and CR 514.
There are about 851 miles (1,370 km) of city-maintained highways. Most roads in the area west of DeGroodt Road are unpaved. In 2013, the public works director reported that most roads in south Palm Bay were "failed roads," for lack of maintenance.
In 2018, The city's voters approved a bond referendum to pave the city's failing roadways. The city is repaving or reconstructing various sections or units each fiscal year.
- William G. Bainbridge, 5th Sergeant Major of the Army
- Deanne Bell, reality television show host known for PBS's Design Squad and Discovery Channel's Smash Lab 
- Xavier Carter, professional track athlete
- Joe Cohen, San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle
- Bobby Dall, bassist musician of Poison
- Ray Dandridge, Hall of Fame Baseball player, retired and died in Palm Bay in 1994
- Ezio Flagello, Italian-American opera singer
- David Gewirtz, CNN columnist, cyberterrorism advisor, presidential scholar
- Chris Heston, San Francisco Giants pitcher 
- Cameron Long (born 1988), basketball player in the Israeli Premier League
- Reggie Nelson, professional football player 
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