What will the population of Apopka be in 2037?
By Greg Jackson, Esq.
I am going to make a bold, scary prediction, and when it comes to fruition you can say you heard it from me first. I predict that by 2037, a mere 20 years from now, the population of Apopka, incorporated and unincorporated, will reach nearly 100,000 residents. With Florida Hospital being built, the city center getting closer to becoming a reality, and new rooftops going up across the City, there is no ignoring the impending shift of Apopka from a “bedroom community” to a fledgling metropolis, with all of the shiny things that come with moving up the proverbial ladder.
While the growth is a certainty, what is uncertain is the affect that this growth will have on the City, particularly if it is allowed to occur with no real understanding of the implications. One such issue will lie with transportation as the trusted, old main artery of Apopka, 441, as well as the newer 429, will be stretched to capacity as old and new residents of Apopka fight to get from point A to point M and all the points in between. Transportation will become an even bigger headache especially since there are no significant improvements for the mass transit system in Central Florida (i.e., bus, light rail, commuter rail, etc.) with the aim of getting folks from their homes in Apopka to their jobs and nightlife in Orlando. But wait, with this new boom in population and growth, rest assured that new industries will look to Apopka for space, resources, and people. In fact, East Orange County, around the University of Central Florida, Research Parkway, Avalon Park, Waterford Lakes and Lee Vista communities, provides us with a glimpse of what Apopka has in store. To satisfy a population that is growing and hungry for recognition as the biggest, baddest and best area with the shiniest new things, Apopka will no longer hold the distinction of having coveted rural, agricultural hubs, but rather will evolve into a technologically advanced hub that people will flock to be educated, to invent things and to try to shape the world. I also believe that UCF will make a move to expand its campus, which will boast a student population of 100,000+, to Apopka, and if so Apopkans must be prepared to share this City with quite possibly 25,000 students, faculty and staff of “UCFʼs West Orange Campus.”
Nightlife, too, in Apopka will explode. No longer will Porkieʼs, Chiliʼs or Froggerʼs serve as the premier night spots. Instead, young hip, quasi-urbanites will find their way to Apopka to expand the hours of operation for most businesses from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. or later. The pending 2037 growth will test the bounds of the infrastructure that is in place now, and we can only hope that the Mayor and City Commission of 2018 will fully appreciate the future needs of the City and will have plans to address those needs for 2037 and beyond. The growth in roads, industry, nightlife and housing will either put a halt to or outright kill, any eco-tourism efforts that are or have been put in place, as the new Apopka will need more land, more houses, more buildings, more technology to accommodate the growth.
Even more troubling is that as the population explodes, as the industries come, as the roads widen and the structures grow taller, I see Apopka losing its identity. The City that is so rich in celebrated, and some hidden, history will sink into this new place that will have no real feeling of community, no real feeling of family, no real feeling of home, and will become a callous, superficial place. Some may misinterpret this and say that I am anti-growth, while the converse is actually true. I am indeed pro-growth, but smart growth. If Apopkans do not become more involved in their government and stand to have their voices heard in council meetings, during election season or when your neighbor needs a hand, you will one day wake up in an Apopka that you do not recognize. One day you will wake up and the Apopka you once loved, will have disappeared – in my humble opinion.
Greg Jackson is a past Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida, a military veteran, current Orange County District 2 Representative on the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and General Counsel for the Community Redevelopment Agency. He has been as an active member of the Central Florida community for nearly 20 years. He was most recently a candidate for the Florida House District 45 seat.