The Viera Company’s Infrastructure Investment
By Shawna Serig Kelsch
Variations of the meaning of the word Viera define it as “faith” or “truth.” And both are certainly appropriate tags of the masterfully planned community that sprawls east and west of I-95, stretching its green arms down in the direction of Melbourne and towards Kissimmee. Perhaps a more fitting term, though, is vision. Specifically, long term vision.
That’s what it takes to open your eyes to the possibilities of turning farmlands with little or no infrastructure to homelands, or communities, with roads, schools, businesses, churches, shopping and opportunity at every turn. This is the vision of Viera.
The Duda family immigrated to this country in the early 1900’s and founded A. Duda and Sons, the parent company to The Viera Company, about 20 years later. Decades later they broke ground for Viera in 1989. In the three decades that have passed since, much has happened: Thirty three neighborhood communities in Viera East were completed, another 25 in Central Viera, hundreds of businesses were raised up and miles of dirt roads were paved into smooth asphalt snaking up and down Wickham Road.
Needs were identified and schools, medical facilities, and government centers were planned. And the Duda family, true to its legacy of community service, set aside hundreds of acres for conservation and community benefit.
Millions Invested in Infrastructure
Along with the donations of land and waterways across the verdant lands, The Viera Company also picked up the tab up front for many of the roads, either with direct financial contributions or with land donations. To date, the company has invested over $105 million in arterial roadways through the communities they are building. Money that taxpayers did not have to contribute.
▶The $11 million Wickham Road Expansion Project, which involves six-laning between Murrell Road and Lake Andrew Drive: Construction on this project began in the summer of 2014 and was initially estimated to take up to 2.5 years. Despite an unprecedented number of rain days, countless utility-related delays, a night work schedule (to minimize traffic impacts to neighborhoods and businesses), a mid-project re-design of the on/off ramps for I-95 due to new FDOT mandates and the first hurricane to hit Brevard in over a decade, the project is expected to be completed by early spring.
Over $12 million in funding is being provided to Brevard County by The Viera Company for completion of the $18 million Barnes Boulevard Improvement Project.
Getting In/Getting Out
Access has been central to the planning stages throughout all of Viera. In fact, the following projects are ongoing or pending projects to ease or open access routes:
▶Installation of a new traffic signal at Stadium Parkway and Tavistock Drive to manage traffic flow from the surrounding neighborhoods. This improvement is part of the company’s recent $5 million widening of Stadium Parkway, from just north of Viera Boulevard to south of the I-95/Fiske interchange, and is slated to be complete during the first quarter of 2017.
▶The development of a Diverging Diamond interchange at I-95 and Viera Boulevard. “It’s only the second of its kind in the state,” said Todd Pokrywa, senior vice president of the company’s land use, planning and development department. The diverging diamond is different from→→ traditional interchanges in that the two directions of traffic on the non-freeway road cross to the opposite side on both sides of the bridge at the freeway. It also requires less land disturbance during the construction phase.
“This was done to preserve an active eagle’s nest and wetland from the construction of an on/off ramp at Viera Boulevard,” said Scott Miller, vice president, Sales and Community Management.
This foresight cements the conservation theme that imbues the planning that went into the communities of Viera East and Central Viera, with parks, trails, lakes and retention ponds striking a balance against the concrete, rebar, tile roofs and textured roadways.
Choices for Everyone
The project leaders understand the practicality of access, but also are proud of the diversity of residential options, from smaller (but still opulent) apartment homes, to newly-designed custom homes that will be the crowning glory of all the communities.
“We are working with Elan Builders and Phil Kean, AIA, a well-known and highly respected architect out of Winter Park. His home designs will be featured at the third fairway at Modern Duran, will all be Green Standard Certified, and will appeal to customers who want a custom built home with all the amenities we offer,” said Miller.
Currently, more than 23,000 residents are spread out across the Viera communities. “When the building is completed in another 25 – 30 years,” Pokrywa continued, “we’ll be able to accommodate more than 60,000 residents.”
A host of on – or near-site amenities allow residents to take advantage of a number of school sites (with lands donated by The Viera Company), medical offices, restaurants, upscale shopping and a smattering of businesses including jewelry giant Wesche, a Lexus car dealership, the Brevard Zoo and Space Coast Stadium, the latter two resting on lands donated by the company. Additionally, The Viera Company has made sure to be inclusive of religious worship and offers residents the options of spiritual practice among 13 facilities.
Plenty to Cheer About
The stadium has been a steady draw for ball fans that came to see the Washington Nationals and local minor league franchise, the Manatees, play here. But with those contracts closing, the fate of the stadium – and the revenue it generates – was up for grabs.
Until, that is, the U.S. Specialty Sports Association (USSSA), signed a 20-year lease agreement to move its amateur sports operations from Kissimmee here, with the promise of at least 175 days of sports events annually, including youth baseball and youth and adult softball. Further, the contract guarantees 75,000 nights of hotel rentals in its first full year of operation, increasing to 100,000 by year three.
From sports parks to dog park, the interconnecting community trails are 8 to 10 feet wide, and big enough to allow golf carts and joggers to be side by side on the path together without worry.
“We have always had the mindset to create opportunities for healthy living for our residents,” said Miller, pointing out that the Duran Golf Course, 120-acre Viera Regional Park and even the Brevard Zoo (a walkable trail of animals showcased in open air enclosures), are some of the top draws in the county for outdoor activities. And all of them are on property that once was part of the Duda’s Cocoa Ranch, now collectively known as Viera.
Feedback from residents via questionnaires and focus groups told planners that accessible areas for outdoor sports and for pets was key to a happy existence, so a Bark Park was planned in response and promises to be a solid draw for the community, Miller said.
“We know there are limited places in the county for people to go and socialize with their dogs, but all our walking trails and our dog park are open to Viera residents, so folks can come and meet other dog lovers or walk along the paths of our conservation areas,” he said.
More on the Horizon
Undoubtedly, as more homes appear on the Viera horizon, so to will more businesses and ancillary service providers.
In fact, a bustling commerce center is being planned for the intersection of I-95 and Viera Boulevard.
“It will be a game changer for the business community, with terrific access (via highway) to Tampa, Orlando and Daytona, and the airports. We’d love to see a large corporation bring its headquarters here,” said Miller. “We have all the infrastructure in place; great housing and roads, excellent schools and access to top-rated colleges, beaches and shopping. It’s a great life in Viera and we hope we can attract the caliber of business and residents that will appreciate all we have to offer.”