For a municipality that was incorporated as recently as 2005, the Town of Cutler Bay has a bold vision for the future that already is being realized, thanks to its forward-thinking government and active participation of town residents.
Mayor Tim Meerbott recently appeared live on Community Newspapers’ Facebook video channel with Executive Editor Michael Miller. Mayor Meerbott discussed the town’s population growth and housing needs, job creation, plans for the development of a town center and transportation challenges.
With Miami and other municipalities experiencing record home prices and a shortage of developable land, Cutler Bay has become an attractive option for first-time homeowners and retirees. People are flocking south to what was formerly known as Cutler Ridge to live, work and play.
“Although the Town of Cutler Bay has a limited staff, we’re very efficient,” said Mayor Meerbott, who has lived in what is now Cutler Bay his entire life. “We reach out to the county, state and federal governments and whenever we become aware of opportunities and programs, we quickly share that information with our residents. We got some of the federal government’s Cares Act money and have been providing direct mortgage and rental assistance to our community. We’ve also provided day care assistance as well.”
According to Mayor Meerbott, the average age of residents as of five years ago was over 55. Lately, however, people in their 30s with children have been moving to Cutler Bay.
“They’re excited about the availability of affordable homes, nearby schools and shops and the proliferation of golf carts for local commuting,” the mayor said.
Mayor Meerbott recognized years ago, while a member of the town council, that the town needed a plan to grow in sync with the changing demographics. The town began planning and gathering information on how to be an age-friendly community and is one of the only cities in Florida to be certified by the American Planning Association. In fact, the organization named the Town of Cutler Bay the winner of its Innovation in Planning for All Ages Award in 2020.
“In 2010, we developed the Age-Friendly Action Plan to make the lives of our residents richer, more engaged and easier,” said former Vice Mayor Sue Ellen Loyzelle.
Town manager Rafael Casals spearheaded the effort, which led to the installation of outdoor fitness equipment in town parks, the expansion of the local circular bus route to operate daily with more stops at places of interest for senior citizens, the creation of dozens of community workshops and events, and a partnership with the South Dade Cultural Arts Center.
There has been a major effort to build apartment housing for the town’s elderly residents and there currently is a three-year waiting list to move into one of the new units.
“Demand is way ahead of supply right now,” Mayor Meerbott said.
He said the town is meeting with developers to build additional homes.
The town took into consideration simple yet important things such as the timing of crosswalks, because older residents and parents with small children need more time crossing streets. Transportation was coordinated to take seniors to the supermarket and to Southland Mall. Pool exercise classes and workshops on such subjects as healthy eating and financial planning were added.
The planning continues, and Mayor Meerbott has his sights set on the creation of a town center similar to Downtown Dadeland or Downtown Doral. In his vision, the center will be home to the Town Hall, a small central park for concerts and picnics, lots of open green space, restaurants, cafes, businesses and shops. Also on the Cutler Bay wish list is a full-service hospital.
“We’ve reached out to the Beacon Council and to business leaders who might be interested in developing one of the parcels surrounding Southland Mall,” Mayor Meerbott said.
He said it’s the perfect site for someone to create something special, where Cutler Bay residents could work, shop, eat and live, all within walking distance.”
According to Mayor Meerbott, tax incentives are available for developers. His staff has created an informational video for those interested in learning more about development and business opportunities in the Town of Cutler Bay.
“We welcome anyone who wants to help us grow our town. It’s the hottest spot in Miami-Dade County,” Mayor Meerbott said.