Seated in front of an aerial map of Kissimmee, FL, City Manager Mike Steigerwald glanced through the fifth floor City Hall conference room window, looking out over Historic Downtown Kissimmee.
“It’s these remnants of old Osceola County that set us apart,” he said, noting the late 1800s architecture in the lakeside skyline.
Steigerwald started his career in Kissimmee in 1993, as an entry level Urban Planner. When he moved to Osceola County, St. Cloud had a population of 16,000. As of 2012, that number had jumped to just under 40,000. Steigerwald estimates that the county population will double again over the next 20 years, and said, “Our community has grown so quickly these past few decades. If we don’t preserve our history, we lose our identity.”
Steigerwald said this was the thinking behind the Kissimmee Lakefront Park Revitalization Project.
Community is important to the city manager, and he’s kept it in mind in his 20 years in development in Osceola County. Steigerwald said the community was instrumental in the planning process for the Lakefront Park Revitalization Project; more than 300 citizens participated by attending a series of community meetings hosted by the Parks and Recreation and Development Services Departments in 2006. These meetings were a place for citizens and public officials to share ideas for the park improvements.
After taking the wishes of Kissimmee’s citizens into consideration, the city hired a design team for the park with the intention of transforming the lakefront into a community focal point while providing necessary infrastructure to develop the buildings and locations surrounding the park. The city broke ground on the $25 million project in 2009, and the project is approaching its final phases of construction.
Steigerwald said the main goal of the Lakefront Revitalization is to bring the atmosphere of our 1800s downtown area “across the railroad tracks” and into the lakefront park. His favorite part of the project is the already completed Ruby Plaza.
“There hasn’t been a true community center in a long time, and I think Ruby Plaza will become that place for Kissimmee,” Steigerwald said.
As the community continues to grow, Steigerwald hopes that Downtown Kissimmee will grow toward the lakefront, and that the historic features that make the city unique will contribute to a good quality of life for citizens for generations to come.
“When I step into Downtown Kissimmee, I know I’m stepping into a downtown that’s been here since the 1800s. That’s part of our coolness as a city, and it’s worth preserving,” he said.