Titusville's Thriving Tech Industry Drives Local Housing Boom

On Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 08:22
For years‚ it seemed that Titusville was destined to remain the Sunshine State’s best-kept secret. But it appears that the word is out‚ and no one could be happier than lifelong resident‚ businessman and Vice Mayor Ken Ward. “Things are really picking up‚” Ward says. “The city has worked very hard over the years to ensure that we have all of the elements in place – sufficient water supply‚ utilities‚ roads. Now‚ we’re seeing the results of all that planning. We’re able to accept all this new development without overwhelming the infrastructure.” At a time when many communities are struggling to attract new businesses and residents‚ Titusville – located about 40 miles east of Orlando – is experiencing impressive growth. Anchored by the Kennedy Space Center‚ the local economy boasts a decidedly high-tech edge. “We’ve attracted an incredible pool of knowledge‚ and that has helped drive our economy‚ ” Ward says. Space tourism adds another important dimension to the local economy‚ with about 1.5 million people visiting the KSC each year. “We attract visitors from all over the world looking to hear the NASA story‚” says Debbie Land‚ acting director of marketing for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. “In fact‚ about 30 percent of our guests are international – that’s a much higher percentage than other Orlando attractions.” While most would agree that the space industry built North Brevard County‚ Ward says more and more people are discovering the benefits of doing business here. “The space center will continue to play a major role in the economy‚ but I think we’re growing much more diversified‚” he says. “We’re seeing a lot of growth right now.” Ward also points to residential development as a key indicator. Thousands of residential units are under construction in the area‚ ranging from condominiums and patio homes to single-family homes and country-club estates. For example‚ site work has begun on Sterling Forest Patio Homes‚ a new 120-lot patio-home subdivision at the northeast corner of Sisson Road and Little League Lane. And construction has started at Harbor Pointe – a riverfront condo project in downtown Titusville. The project is expected to feature three 12-story buildings and a full slate of amenities. As vice president of Condev Homes‚ Chris Gardner is thrilled to be part of the current residential boom. Based in Winter Park‚ Condev has been developing homes in Titusville since 1962 and currently has six residential communities in the works here. “One reason that I think this area is experiencing so much activity is that it’s so affordable‚” Gardner says. “We see a lot of Orlando residents who are realizing that they can go about 30 miles east and get much more home for the money. Another important point is that we still have a lot of room to grow – it’s not so congested.” While Gardner says that Condev Homes specializes in “smaller projects” – with 100 home sites or less – he notes that Titusville is now ready to welcome “larger developments that are generally found in bigger markets.” Willow Creek Commercial Center offers the perfect case in point. The 1‚600-acre planned development‚ which will be located along Grissom Parkway‚ is expected to feature a mix of commercial‚ industrial and residential properties. According to Henry Minneboo‚ vice president of Willow Creek Development Corp.‚ the project already is attracting attention from major retailers‚ including grocery and pharmacy chains‚ as well as restaurants. “This project is big news for the city of Titusville‚” says Minneboo. “I have lived my entire life in Brevard County‚ and I am really excited about the changes that are occurring. I feel like we’ve been discovered.” Vice Mayor Ward agrees‚ noting that the best is yet to come. “This is just the beginning. For a while‚ I think some people were worried about the changes – it can be a little scary for some folks. But we’re handling this growth in the right way. We’re prepared‚ so it’s not going to overwhelm the community – just strengthen it.”