The City that Rises Above the Rest

City of Sunrise, FL
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

From its ease of access to its corporate parks, ongoing investment, and well-managed local government, the City of Sunrise represents the best Florida has to offer. Situated in central-western Broward County – one of the three counties comprising the Miami metropolitan area – Sunrise is a hub for major employers like American Express, Chetu HQ, AT&T, Amazon and Comcast to name just a few. It’s home to many national and global headquarters, along with retail, office and manufacturing businesses in tech, medicine, logistics and other areas.

At the heart of South Florida’s tri-County region, Sunrise has a population of 97,000 (2020 Decennial Census), and because of the proximity of Interstate 75, I-595, I-95, and the Florida turnpike, it connects to a pool of some 2.7 million workers.

“There are so many different factors that make Sunrise such an attractive city for businesses, but I believe the most important one is that we deliver easy access to Latin America and other global markets via the three nearby airports and seaports,” says Mayor Michael J. Ryan. “Every day, our population blossoms because we are such a powerful workforce center for businesses, for shopping, and for entertainment.”

And compared to other larger Florida cities, Sunrise does not have the same paralyzing traffic congestion, making it an altogether nicer place for workers and suppliers alike. The City has highlighted many of the advantages it offers in an engaging video available at www.sunriserisesabove.com.

Upside-down history
While Sunrise is younger than some Florida cities, it has a compelling history. In 1960, seeing the location’s potential, developer Norman W. Johnson purchased the area – all 2,650 acres – for $9 million, an enormous sum at the time.

Naming it Sunrise Golf Village, he induced some 350 people to actually live there in 1961, in a developer’s community of one and three-quarter square miles. That same year, Florida’s governor appointed Johnson the first Mayor of Sunrise, a position he held until 1967. “It’s a little-known fact that Broward County’s first condominium was built in Sunrise,” says Mayor Ryan.

“We began as a concept, as a golf village, as a place for people to come and relax in the autumn of their lives,” says the Mayor, “and what we’ve become is a far more dynamic economic powerhouse in a very diverse community that’s far younger than had been intended.”

To entice people to the area, something revolutionary was needed. Johnson and Dykstra developed and constructed an ‘upside-down house,’ unveiling it to the public to attract potential property buyers. Their plan worked. In 1962, the wonderfully weird upside-down house became a national attraction, drawing thousands to the Village, and earning coverage from newspapers and LIFE magazine.

Completely furnished with everything upside-down including the automobile in the carport, the topsy-turvy exhibit drew in thousands to stand on the ceiling, with a surprising number deciding to get in on the ground floor of Sunrise Golf Village. Through a referendum, they changed the name to the City of Sunrise in 1971.

Ideal for business
After years of steady and strategic growth, Sunrise is no longer synonymous with retirement communities. Today, the City is home to a diverse and vibrant population: approximately 62 percent of Sunrise residents are between 18 and 65 years of age, with a median age of 39.The local unemployment rate is currently 5.1 percent; prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was 3.1 percent.

Sunrise works hard for its reputation as being family friendly – investing in parks and recreation amenities, offering programs that promote quality of life, and partnering with schools to enhance educational opportunities. Thanks in large part to those efforts, the City boasts desirable demographics that have helped it attract many national and international business headquarters. Says the Mayor, “We have a young workforce, and we have the capacity to grow as an economic powerhouse in South Florida.”

With 38,238 housing units and an outstanding quality of life, the City of Sunrise is well-suited to meet the needs of residents and businesses alike. Unlike many other cities, Sunrise presents competitive incentive packages. “In Sunrise, every incentive package is designed to stand on its own merits and they have been known to stand out against our competitors,” says Economic Development Director Danielle Cohen Lima. “Our packages are developed with a multitude of considerations.”

Recognizing that time is money, Sunrise does everything possible to cut red tape so companies can get started quickly. Unlike in many larger, more bureaucratic cities, the economic development director of Sunrise works directly for the city manager. This allows businesses to cut through multiple layers and get things done faster, while showing the commitment Sunrise has to development at the highest levels.

“We also have an entire City Commission that fully understands the benefits of attracting development, redevelopment and the right companies to the City,” adds Mayor Ryan. “The City recognizes the importance of supporting the business community and bringing in great jobs for our residents. Being business friendly doesn’t just mean throwing incentives at businesses, but also being there when any issues arise.

“Another important factor in being business friendly is helping businesses through the permitting process. We are always looking for ways to make processes faster and better for the development community, while making sure we maintain high quality development in the City.”

For Mayor Ryan, Sunrise’s approach to welcoming new businesses is a strong point, one the City has displayed time and again. “We sit with them, and we make a commitment to them,” he says. “When they tell us when they need to be open, we work with them to make sure they open on time.

“What these businesses really want to know is that – if they’re going to commit to a community – they’re not going to be tied up for six months or a year, trying to get things done. They need to fast track. We do that, not just for large businesses coming here; we feel the same way about small businesses.” This philosophy continues to work for the City and business alike.

Acknowledging that the City is competing with other state and regional municipalities, Sunrise is attracting small businesses while being able to meet the requirements of larger corporations and light industrial. “We want to be home to both,” says Mayor Ryan. “We want to facilitate whatever that dream is; no matter how small or how large the business is, we want to make sure they get open on time. Most important is we are very open-minded, and able to adjust to what the market conditions are.”

Corporate parks ready to go
Unlike some cities where business and corporate parks are either still under construction or near capacity, Sunrise is home to a wide variety of corporate parks able to meet the needs of many businesses.

One of South Florida’s largest office parks, and the biggest in the county, is Sawgrass International Corporate Park. Strategically bound by I-595, I-75 and Sunrise Boulevard, this state-of-the-art business park features a variety of business spaces on 612 acres of prime sites, from high-tech manufacturing and research and development to executive office suites and mid-rise, Class A office projects with facilities for corporate headquarters and regional office operations.

A key point in Sunrise’s success is its location literally in the center of the county. As the infrastructure developed, all three highways – I-595, I-75 and the Sawgrass Expressway – touch on Sunrise. “So as a result, the ability to come into Sunrise and to leave Sunrise is about as easy as it can be anywhere in South Florida,” states Mayor Ryan. “And that’s been true for our workforce, light industrial capacity, and our entertainment.”

At 100 acres, Sawgrass Technology Park is made up of a dozen charming Mediterranean Hacienda-style buildings, complete with courtyards and covered walkways.

Like the Sawgrass International Corporate Park, it is readily accessible by I-595, I-75, and the Sawgrass Expressway. With a complex comprising 650,000 square feet of space, the Sawgrass Technology Park is perfect for the diverse needs of large-space users. And with about 32 acres available, and direct frontage on Sunrise Boulevard, it is ideal for build-to-suit corporate office development.

Located in the City’s northern section and bordered on the west by the Sawgrass Expressway is the 550-acre Sunrise Commerce Park. This business park features distribution centers, manufacturing space, low-rise offices, executive suites and other multi-tenant business facilities, with most of the parcels zoned I-1 (Industrial), allowing for a variety of operations.

In the City’s southwest section is Broward Lakes Business Park. With I-75 as its western border, the 120-acre business park features multi-tenant flex space and select office projects.

“That’s the light industrial component,” says City Manager, Mark S. Lubelski. “You’ll see a warehouse with 10 or 12 bays, individually owned or rented, mainly mom and pop businesses.”

With its ideal location, corporate parks, and willingness to work with business, the City of Sunrise is perfect for domestic and global companies.

“We also offer CEOs and their employees a variety of living options, beautiful and well-maintained parks, and our world-class amenities, including the FLA Live Arena, Sawgrass Mills mall, and the additional $2.3 billion of new multi-use projects in development, such as Metropica and Radius,” says Lima. “The City is also professionally run and financially stable — so much so that we haven’t raised taxes in the City for the last 10-plus years.”

Great to visit, great to call home
Along with fostering a wonderful environment for business, the City of Sunrise is attractive to visitors and homeowners alike.

Well-known for its world-class restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and sports, Sunrise is home of the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers, and a 20,000-seat arena hosting top-tier concerts and events. With the Sawgrass Mills mall – one of the largest and most successful outlet malls in the continental U.S. – shoppers can take advantage of upscale and value retailers.

As Florida’s second-largest tourist destination, drawing 40 million visitors annually, Sunrise boasts outstanding luxury hotels and upscale restaurants. “In the four square miles of Sunrise known as our Sawgrass Business and Entertainment District, the aggregate existing property value is over $5 billion,” says the Mayor. “We are also at the edge of the Everglades with beautiful views and greenery that tourists enjoy and less than 20 minutes’ drive to beautiful beaches.” Additionally, the Mayor speaks with pride of the area’s sustainability and growing appreciation for the Everglades in South Florida’s ecology. “That’s been a place that people come to and spend the day, getting out on an airboat and enjoying nature.”

Where other communities invest heavily in advertising, much of Sunrise’s ability to attract new businesses comes from word-of-mouth referrals, and realtors praising the City and how it is governed.

Sound strategies win out
For years, Sunrise has invested in itself for the betterment of all. Through sound financial management strategies, taxes haven’t increased in 10 years, yet the city is investing millions into infrastructure, parks, wastewater treatment, and other vital infrastructure projects. This significant investment, in turn, attracts high-profile developments to the area.

These include Metropica, a first-class, transit-oriented, mixed-use project comprising class A office buildings with structured parking, commercial and hotel facilities, and luxury high-rise condominiums, at the edge of the Everglades.

Then there’s Radius, a prime 32-acre tract of vacant land slated to be a mixed-use development, and The Edge at Sawgrass Point, the first speculative Class (A) office building to be built in Sunrise in over a decade.

Lubelski explains that the City also has 1.5 million square feet of office entitlements ready for development.

Owing to the ease with which people can access Sunrise, the City is seeing more R&D, high-tech, and medical innovation companies come into the area. “They are really able to draw upon a large workforce base across South Florida that can easily get to Sunrise,” comments Mayor Ryan of the area’s highways making commuting simple and convenient. “Even traditional businesses that wanted to locate out by the port or near the airport are coming out west, because it’s just so easy to come and go.”

Committing over $30 million in infrastructure and other improvements in the City’s original neighborhoods, the City is active with road and lighting improvements, and the recently completed reconstruction of City Park in the heart of the east Sunrise area.

“To further enhance the appeal of the original neighborhoods and to complement City Park, we are finalizing the design of the new Village Arts Plaza and we expect to start construction by the end of 2022,” says Lima. Other capital projects under construction include City Hall and Municipal Campus Improvements; the investment of over $65 million since 2014 through the GO Bond Program to expand parks; the completion of a new $14 million high-level disinfection re-use water treatment facility at the Sawgrass Wastewater Treatment Plant in 2020; and a $9.3 million Re-use Water System.

All in all, there are very few communities of a similar size anywhere in the United States that welcome the millions of visitors that we do here in Sunrise, or that can boast the amount of regional assets and corporate investment found in the City. “We want every one of our small businesses to flourish and think about expanding,” says Mayor Ryan. “And for our big businesses, we want them to know that when it comes time to expand, we are here to help them do it. We need to have that relationship on the streets with the businesses, to meet their needs. If they are thinking about expanding, our response is, ‘Come on in, sit down and tell us what you want to do and what your timeframe is, and we’ll help you get there.’ And that’s a non-economic incentive but it’s probably the most powerful, because you’re encouraging businesses to stay home where they are, and [showing them] that we’re committed to helping them follow their dream.”

To learn more about why Sunrise Rises Above the Rest, watch the City’s video at www.sunriserisesabove.com.

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