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Palm Bay, Florida
City of Palm Bay
Top, left to right: Palm Bay, Palm Bay City Hall, Palm Bay overpass sign on Interstate 95, Turkey Creek
Top, left to right: Palm Bay, Palm Bay City Hall, Palm Bay overpass sign on Interstate 95, Turkey Creek
Flag of Palm Bay, Florida
Flag
Official seal of Palm Bay, Florida
Seal
Motto(s): 
"A perfect place to grow!"
Location in Brevard County and the U.S. state of Florida
Location in Brevard County and the U.S. state of Florida
Country  United States
State  Florida
County Flag of Brevard County, Florida.png Brevard
Government
 • Type Council-Manager
Area
 • 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)
Population
 (2020)
 • City 119,760
 • Density 1,385.82/sq mi (535.07/km2)
 • Metro
606,612
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
32905-32911
Area code(s) 321
FIPS code 12-54000
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.

Palm Bay is a principal city of the Palm Bay−MelbourneTitusville Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had a population of 606,612 at the 2020 census.

History

The Timucua people, attracted to the mouth of Turkey Creek at the Indian River by freshwater springs, fish, oysters, and wildlife, are thought to have been the first inhabitants in the Palm Bay area.

Palm Bay's recent history began in the 1850s when the first European settlers built homes along Turkey Creek. Originally referred to as Tillman, the settlement was described as a "small strip of hammock...on each side of Turkey Creek...mostly pine and palmetto, miserable sandy barren oak scrub, some ponds and interspersed with sawgrass and gallberry."

By the mid-nineteenth century, there was a lumbering operation, packing house, and orange groves. Growth was slow until the arrival of the railroad in 1894. Then goods were brought in and produce was shipped to market faster.

Turkey Creek in Palm Bay, FL
Turkey Creek in 2015

1900s

Between 1910 and 1914, Tillman became the center for a land company known as the Indian River Catholic Colony. 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 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. The canals made it possible to control flooding and turn marsh lands to agricultural use. 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. In 1926, a fire among the dredges and a severe hurricane economically depressed 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 its large residential project known as Port Malabar. The city incorporated itself on January 16, 1960. Prior to expanding their borders, the city population was 2,808 that year.

2000s

The active development of the city after that point was intertwined with GDC, who laid out and built many of the streets, sold and built many of the city's now older homes, and built a water treatment plant later purchased by the city after GDC filed for bankruptcy in 1991.

For three consecutive years between 2003 and 2005, the city was made a finalist for the All-America City Award.

In 2008, the former Port Malabar Country Club property was revalued at $300,000, essentially "worthless" because of arsenic in the groundwater which would require an estimated $12 million to clean up.

There are hundreds of miles of roads that are in such poor condition that the city Public Works Department considers them unserviceable. The voters have consistently defeated measures which would have improved roads, termed the worst in Brevard. 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 2008, fires on Mother's Day destroyed 37 homes in the Southwest area of the city. Arson has been to blame as the cause of at least a few of the numerous fires.

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 in the area due to it being territorial and its inability to move to better grounds when its habitat is jeopardized.

2010s

In 2010, plans were revealed by a private company to develop Emerald City, a large planned city within the city limits. The focus will be on creating an eco-friendly urban community that will 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 currently in the development phase.

Fiscal concern over firefighters' pensions occurred 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 the western limits of the city. A portion of the parkway opened to the public in 2015. The project was in the development phase for over a decade. The roadway was planned out of a need 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. There are other roadway improvement projects currently in the development phase, including widening SR 507 (Babcock Street) from four lanes to six.

The city formerly monitored some intersections with radar cameras, resulting in the issuing of traffic tickets for running a red light. In 2013, these monitored intersections were no safer than unmonitored ones. These cameras were removed in 2014.

Geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 68.8 square miles (178.3 km2), of which 65.7 square miles (170.2 km2) is land and 3.1 square miles (8.1 km2), or 4.56%, is water.

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. A small portion of Bayside Lakes lies in the area.

Palm Bay is developing its portion of Bayside Lakes "downtown" to create a focus for the city.

During the early 1990s, 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

Climate data for Palm Bay, FL
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 89
(31.7)
92
(33.3)
93
(33.9)
97
(36.1)
98
(36.7)
101
(38.3)
102
(38.9)
101
(38.3)
99
(37.2)
96
(35.6)
91
(32.8)
89
(31.7)
102
(38.9)
Average high °F (°C) 72
(22.2)
73
(22.8)
77
(25)
81
(27.2)
85
(29.4)
89
(31.7)
91
(32.8)
90
(32.2)
88
(31.1)
83
(28.3)
78
(25.6)
73
(22.8)
81.7
(27.59)
Average low °F (°C) 50
(10)
51
(10.6)
55
(12.8)
60
(15.6)
66
(18.9)
71
(21.7)
72
(22.2)
73
(22.8)
72
(22.2)
67
(19.4)
60
(15.6)
53
(11.7)
62.5
(16.94)
Record low °F (°C) 17
(-8.3)
22
(-5.6)
25
(-3.9)
35
(1.7)
46
(7.8)
55
(12.8)
60
(15.6)
60
(15.6)
58
(14.4)
41
(5)
30
(-1.1)
21
(-6.1)
17
(-8.3)
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.48
(63)
2.49
(63.2)
2.92
(74.2)
2.08
(52.8)
3.94
(100.1)
5.83
(148.1)
5.38
(136.7)
5.78
(146.8)
7.20
(182.9)
4.76
(120.9)
3.12
(79.2)
2.31
(58.7)
48.29
(1,226.6)

Surrounding areas

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1960 2,808
1970 7,176 155.6%
1980 18,560 158.6%
1990 62,632 237.5%
2000 79,413 26.8%
2010 103,190 29.9%
2020 119,760 16.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
Palm Bay Demographics
2010 Census Palm Bay Brevard County Florida
Total population 103,190 543,376 18,801,310
Population, percent change, 2000 to 2010 +29.9% +14.1% +17.6%
Population density 1,570.6/sq mi 535.0/sq mi 350.6/sq mi
White or Caucasian (including White Hispanic) 72.9% 83.0% 75.0%
(Non-Hispanic White or Caucasian) 63.9% 77.6% 57.9%
Black or African-American 17.9% 10.1% 16.0%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 14.1% 8.1% 22.5%
Asian 1.8% 2.1% 2.4%
Native American or Native Alaskan 0.5% 0.4% 0.4%
Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
Two or more races (Multiracial) 3.6% 2.6% 2.5%
Some Other Race 3.2% 1.7% 3.6%

As of 2010, there were 45,220 households, out of which 12.7% were vacant. 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.

Housing

In 2008, 403 building permits were issued for 534 units. This was down from 739 permits issued for 739 units in 2007, which was down from 1766 permits for 1771 units in 2006. The median home price in 2017 was $172,200.

Languages

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, while French came up as the third most spoken language, which made up 0.93%, German was spoken by 0.92%, and Arabic was at fourth, with 0.53% of the population.

Transportation

Pbsignpatriotic cropped
City name marker erected on I-95 in 2002

Major roads in Palm Bay include the following:

  • US 1.svg 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.
  • I-95.svg 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).
  • Florida 507.svg 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.
  • Brevard County Road 507 FL.svg 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.
  • Florida 514.svg 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.
  • Brevard County Road 514 FL.svg 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.
  • Brevard County Road 516 FL.svg 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.
  • Brevard County Road 509 FL.svg 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 2012, Palm Bay had the lowest walkability of any city in the United States with a population over 100,000 people.

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.

Economy

Industry

Pink Walmart in Palm Bay Cropped
Pink Wal-Mart Supercenter built in 2005: the city uses Key West vernacular architecture.

Forbes magazine ranked the city the 11th most innovative in the nation in 2010.

The following corporations are located in the city:

  • L3Harris Technologies manufacturing has 3,400 employees on its Palm Bay campus on Palm Bay Road
  • Intersil employed 700 people in 2010
  • Palm Bay Hospital (formerly Palm Bay Community Hospital) owned by Health First

Workforce

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.

Tourism

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.

Education

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 (which actually lies just north of Palm Bay, within the city of Melbourne, but serves Palm Bay and Malabar)
  • Heritage High School

Higher Education:

  • Eastern Florida State College

Notable people

  • Bruce Alger, U.S. representative for Texas's 5th congressional district, 1955–1965, retired and died in Palm Bay in 2015
  • 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 (American band)
  • 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
  • David Kilgore, professional runner and record holder
  • Cameron Long (born 1988), basketball player in the Israeli Premier League
  • Reggie Nelson, professional football player

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