Satellite Beach sits on a barrier island off the eastern coast of Florida. It is connected to the mainland by two causeways which cross over Merritt Island and the Indian River Lagoon. Satellite Beach boomed during the 1950’s and 60’s as a bedroom community for engineers, civil servants and military personnel due to its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center, Patrick Air Force Base and Port Canaveral. The City also houses numerous retirees and “snow-birds”, or winter-only residents, who occupy many of the large beachfront condominiums and vacation-rentals. While tourism is a major part of the region’s economy, Satellite Beach lacks many of the short-term visitors due to the large coquina and worm-rock reefs that are endemic to this few-mile stretch of beach. This can make swimming somewhat undesirable but makes a unique and excellent site for fishing, birding and surfing. The beaches and reefs also provide an ideal nesting ground for sea turtle species during the summer months. The brackish Indian River Lagoon, canals and islets are also home to porpoises, alligators and manatees, as well as endangered mangrove habitats and fish spawning grounds.
Due to ocean currents and its location just south of Cape Canaveral, Satellite Beach tends to be relatively safe from direct hurricane hits. However during the 2004 hurricane season, the city saw a number of devastating storms which destroyed numerous homes, businesses and the city’s only hotel. While many of the commercial properties never recovered and still sit vacant today, most of the residential properties were quickly rebuilt, including beachfront lots that were lost to massive storm-surges. The over-heated real estate market of the mid-2000’s saw home prices double and triple in a matter of a few years in Satellite Beach. During this same time, Patrick Air Force Base demolished or vacated most of its housing holdings along Satellite Beach’s northern border. In a deal with the federal government and private developers, the city incorporated the former-Air Force Base land and the area saw spurts of new construction. Satellite Beach also began a program in which it purchased vacant beach-front properties to preserve as natural dune and scrub habitat. However as the real estate market fell in the late 2000’s, the city saw a rash of foreclosures, revenues fell and commercial activity sputtered to a stand-still. As well, the newly-incorporated land sat vacant as the private development partner filed for bankruptcy. In 2011, NASA’s shuttle program came to an end, and many of the area’s high-paying jobs were lost. The city also struggles with ongoing beach erosion which plague the high-value lots fronting directly on the beach. Seawalls are banned and beach access is only allowed at the numerous public boardwalk crossovers to protect the dune systems. Beach re-nourishment has been used in the past to solve short-term erosion problems, but its continued use is currently a controversial topic due to its potential environmental and financial impacts.
Below you will find a slideshow depicting Satellite Beach’s common building typologies and urban forms: