County population: 291,000
St. Lucie County is one of Florida’s fastest growing counties, recently reaching approximately 287,000 people, of which 175,000 live in the area around Port St. Lucie.
Conveniently located in the heart of the Treasure Coast – St. Lucie County, Florida offers an affordable South Florida lifestyle. Comprised of Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and Hutchinson Island, St. Lucie County was founded in 1905 with deep agricultural roots in cattle, citrus, fishing and pineapples. While you can still smell the tasty Orange Blossom breezes from the grooves in the western part of the county, it’s St. Lucie County’s natural and coastal environments that made it one of the fastest growing areas just a few short years ago. St. Lucie County’s current population of roughly 291,000 is twice what it was just two decades ago. And there is plenty of land and housing available for that number to continue to grow.
Founded in 1961, The City of Port St. Lucie (Florida’s 9th largest city) features a variety of housing options from gated golf communities, in and around the award-winning PGA Village and Golf Club complex to the newer townhomes and traditional residences inside the Tradition area. Those looking for older historic homes can find hidden treasures in Fort Pierce, founded in 1901. With its easy access to the Atlantic Ocean through the Fort Pierce Inlet – Fort Pierce is a city that is looking toward the future without forgetting its past from the renovated Sunrise Theatre (built in 1924) to its award-winning Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. If you are looking for salt-water sunrises, you’ll find plenty of housing options along the 21-miles of coastline that is Hutchinson Island.
Despite its growing population and business industry (St. Lucie County features three hospitals, including a cutting-edge trauma center and heart institution), local leaders have taken great steps to protect the natural beauty that makes St. Lucie County unique. Through a voter-approved bond, the county has purchased nearly 11,000 acres that is open to the public for passive recreation such as horseback riding, hiking, biking, fishing and bird watching. St. Lucie County is one of the few places in Florida where horseback riding is allowed on the beach. There are dozens of one-of-kind arts and cultural facilities including, Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Trail, Highwaymen Trail, A.E. Backus Museum & Gallery, and Heathcote Botanical Gardens; environmental learning Centers such as, St. Lucie County Aquarium, Manatee Observation & Education Center, Oxbow Eco-Cente ; sporting activities like charter fishing outfits, private and public golf courses, Fort Pierce Jai-Alia and Tradition Field – spring training home of the New York Mets and historical institutions, National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum and St. Lucie County Regional History Center to name a few.
It’s these and other reasons that have helped St. Lucie County grab the attention of national publications. Forbes Magazine touted Port St. Lucie as one of “The 25 Best Place to Retire” as well as being on the “Best Places of Business and Careers” list, while USA Today ranked Fort Pierce as one of the “Most Idyllic Downtowns.”
Economically, the area has traditionally been a rich agricultural area, with the Indian River producing some of the world’s highest quality citrus. Manufacturing in the county includes aircraft and components, as well as marine/boating. Along with government and university research facilities related to life sciences, agriculture, marine sciences and aerospace has come a growing health care and medical industry. The county has economic development targets in place for AgTech/Nutraceuticals, Composite Materials for Aviation and Marine, Life Sciences, Information Technology and Educational Services.
St. Lucie County School District provides excellence in education to students and families. Students are given unique opportunities to work with local businesses, including the Vaccine Gene Therapy Institute, the FAU/Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, an aeronautics academy in partnership with Embry Riddle University. The school district also offers an award winning manufacturing academy and a veterinary academy.
In the past decade the district constructed nearly $800 million in new facilities, including two new state-of-the-art high schools and four K-8 schools.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT
In St. Lucie Public Schools, the system of one neighborhood, one school, has developed into the concept of a larger community with several schools to choose from. What was formerly an annual ritual of redrawing school boundaries and moving children from one school to another involuntarily to accommodate growth, has been replaced with an open-enrollment system where parents select from among a variety of schools close to where they live. Once a child is enrolled in a school, parents have the assurance that their student will remain in that school through the highest grade offered unless the parent voluntarily chooses a different school. The district employs over 6,500 teachers and 2,300 administrative staff to serve nearly 41,000 students. The student to teacher ratio is 18:1.
St. Lucie provides 17 elementary schools, 12 K-8 schools, four middle schools, six high schools, one 6-12 School, and five charter schools. There are four magnet schools available: Fairlawn Elementary (K-5) in Fort Pierce, Fort Pierce Magnet School of the Arts (K-8) in Fort Pierce; F.K. Sweet Elementary (K-5) in Fort Pierce, and Lincoln Park Elementary (6-12) in Fort Pierce, a high achieving academic school that attracts students from across the county and is rated among the top 100 schools in the state of Florida.
The county also offers:
K-12 Virtual School through the Mosaic Digital Academy, offering both part time and full time virtual instruction through an online interface. This program covers St. Lucie, Martin and Okeechobee counties.
Performance Based Preparatory Academy, a non-traditional school using a performance based learning track that allows students to earn high school credits and complete a Standard High School Diploma at their own pace, for students 16 – 22 years of age.
Dale Cassens Education Complex, serving students who need special attention and therapeutic guidance.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS IN ST. LUCIE COUNTY
The county offers 24 private schools, serving about 4,750 students. The average private school tuition in the county is $9,288 for high schools. Nearly 80 percent of the private schools have a religious affiliation. Among the top rated private schools are Golden Rule Academy, (PK-12) located in Fort Pierce, and the Southeastern Military Academy, which is an all-boys military school for grades 6 – 12 located in Port St. Lucie.