Before 1969, land that eventually became the City of Palm Coast was considered by some as “a big pine-covered swamp.” But when the corporate eyes of ITT/Levitt looked upon the virtually uninhabited land, they saw 22,000 acres of golf courses, marinas, oceanfront motels, scenic drives, and house lots awaiting the arrival of sun-seeking “pioneers.” Marketing strategies targeting urban residents in the North and Midwest offered slices of land cut out of miles of forests, and soon a 500-mile infrastructure of roads, utilities, and sewer lines bound Palm Coast to a future that included becoming the largest planned unit development in Florida history.
ITT, which began as an international communications firm in the 1930s, provided the financial muscle to purchase large tracts of land and construct the infrastructure. Grand opening of Palm Coast occurred on October 29, 1970. The first public building, a Welcome Center, served as the hub for sales activities, and a 64-foot-high observation tower provided panoramic views of surrounding woods, lakes, streams, Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic Ocean. It presided over a golf course, model homes, canals, and early home construction. Originally, visitors came from A1A to a small dock on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway and proceeded by boat to the Welcome Center on the main canal. Prospective buyers were taken by elevator to the top of the tower.
Earliest “pioneers” occupied their homes in January 1972. From their start in 1969 until ITT withdrew in 1995, the corporation provided most of the services and leadership in Palm Coast. They had planned, built and maintained a model environmental community. In a unique private/government relationship, ITT financed Palm Coast’s most necessary improvements. The interchange at I-95 and the Hammock Dunes bridge were funded at relatively unnoticeable cost to local taxpayers and the state. As ITT withdrew from Palm Coast, the void left by its departure was increasingly felt in the community, and the process of incorporation began.
On September 21, 1999, one week after Hurricane Floyd postponed the vote, 65.6 percent of the nearly 12,000 voters casting ballots opted to turn the unincorporated population center of Flagler County into a city. On December 31, 1999, residents of Palm Coast celebrated the end of a millennium and a century – plus a new city.
Palm Coast’s population on January 1, 2000, was estimated at 29,360. Mayor Jim Canfield, the City Council, and the city manager initially focused on planning for issues facing a new city. Providing residents with essential government services and promoting the community’s economic growth were two major goals. As a result of joint meetings of Palm Coast City Council and Flagler County Commission, the county turned over many parcels of land to the city benefitting fire, public works, recreation and parks, and the locating of new schools. At the same time, the city began studying acquisition of its water sources. City business was originally done in the present Community Center. Today, City Hall is located at 160 Lake Avenue.
In future years, a beautiful new Florida Hospital-Flagler opened near the SR-100 and I-95 interchange. Palm Coast purchased its own water company, relocated its city hall after selling its building to bring in a new business, approved European Village, and annexed 5,800 acres in the northwest corner of Flagler County near the St. John’s County line. A 1,500-acre site for Town Center was approved, providing office, retail, institutional and commercial space.
Palm Coast was officially designated the “fastest growing metropolitan area” in the country by the U.S. Census Bureau. The population had more than doubled to over 64,500 since incorporation. In 2006, Cobblestone Village started construction and Palm Coast was named a “Tree City USA” by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Discount supercenters and several major department stores opened, as well as many local and national chain restaurants. The city had reason to celebrate its “dynamic decade” at its 10th anniversary!
Today, Palm Coast has approximately 76,450 residents. Vibrant lifestyle and the natural environment go hand-in-hand, with 13 beautiful parks, 125+ miles of connecting trails and paths for walking/bicycling, abundant fishing and boating, a year-round Running Series, and world-class tennis and golf. The community offers excellent schools, a business assistance center that promotes local businesses, and extensive City services that make Palm Coast a great place to live, work and play. We invite you to join us – Find Your Florida in Palm Coast!
-Adapted from “The Brief History of Palm Coast,” by City Historian Arthur E. Dycke, author of “Images of America: Palm Coast” and “Alan Smolen: Father of Palm Coast, 1975-85.”