From Everglades to Industrial Center to Hometown - The City of Doral
In the late 1950s, real estate pioneer Doris and Alfred Kaskel purchased 2,400 acres of swampland between NW 36 Street and NW 74 Street and from NW 79 Avenue to NW 117 Avenue for about $49,000 with the intention of building a golf course and hotel. In 1962, the Kaskel's dream came true when they opened a hotel and country club that featured the Blue, Red and Par 3 golf courses. They named it Doral - a combination of Doris and Alfred.
According to a story in The Miami Herald, Alfred was born in Poland and migrated to New York when he was 21 years old and became a real estate developer. His first project was building 15,000 apartments in New York. After marrying Doris, the Kaskels moved south and built the Doral Beach Hotel and the Carillon Hotel on Miami Beach. Once the Country Club was built, guests were transported from the Beach to the Country Club for a day on the golf course.
As Doral's very first structure, the Doral Hotel and Country Club became the area's hot spot. In the second year of operation, the Kaskels hosted the first Doral Open Invitational, Florida's major PGA event. Alfred offered $50,000 in prize money to attract well-known golfers. To put it in perspective, according to the South Florida Golf Foundation, there were only three other tournaments being held in Florida at the time with a combined total of $65,000 prize money.
Today, the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, located at NW 87 Avenue and NW 36 Street, is internationally famous for its golf courses, especially the Blue Monster, and still hosts the PGA Tour Tournament every year.
The Spa, originally called the Saturnia International Spa, was added to the Resort in 1987 and is ranked as one of the top spa destinations in the US and the largest in the state of Florida.
By the early '80s, Doral started to experience the first spurts of growth when Doris' and Alfred's grandson Bill developed Doral Estates that was followed by a joint venture with Lennar Homes to build Doral Park. Both communities were named after the Hotel, a trend that was to be repeated many more times.
Younger families started flooding the area but had to travel to purchase even the most basic essentials, because there were no stores - or schools or parks. Although the majority of the original homes were investment properties or second homes, the early fulltime residents believed that the quality of life and the low housing costs far exceeded the lack of amenities and started coming together as a community.
Traffic problems were nonexistent, except for the occasional escaped cow. There were more farms with cows, horses and chickens that people on NW 107 Avenue; NW 87 Avenue was just two lanes and NW 41 Street ended at NW 104 Avenue.
From 1983-85, the county imposed a building moratorium for the area to protect the well fields. Once the ban was lifted, Doral experienced tremendous growth. The West Dade Federation of Homeowner Associations was formed in 1989 under the leadership of Morgan Levy to stand strong against any proposals that threatened the community's welfare. As a result of their efforts, a police station instead of a jail was built, higher development standards were implemented, and more lighting, roads and landscaping appeared in the area.
Incorporation began in earnest in 1995 with the realization that residents were paying a very high price for services received; they wanted more services at a reasonable price. The County met the first attempt at incorporation with a year's deferral. Doral had been classified as a "donor community," meaning that the taxes paid were more than the cost of operations. With the defferal, incorporation efforts intensified even more.
The County was allowing unchecked growth that was detrimental to the residents. In 1996, the first election of the Community Council was held and soon-to-be County Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Cancio, Sr., Mario Pita and Barbara B. Thomas were elected and three other members were appointed. The Council met every month to work on different projects and to address the needs of the community.
In 2002, the Governor appointed Cancio to fill the remainder of Commissioner Miriam Alonso's term of office; she had been suspended after an arrest on felony charges. Doral residents hoped that his appointment would be the impetus to bring the community closer to incorporation, and Cancio did not let his community down.
In the meantime, Cancio named Juan Carlos Bermudez, the City of Doral's first elected Mayor, as his replacement to the Community Council. Bermudez declined the offer and ran for the seat and was elected. At the time, Bermudez was president of One Doral, a civic organization formed to counteract the perceived influence of the West Dade Federation on the Council. The Miami Herald reported that Bermudez intended to create a transparent government in Doral by bringing a balance to the table. One Doral and the West Dade Federation were instrumental in the incorporation process.
In January 2003, following a seven year battle, 85% of the voters in Doral voted in favor of incorporation. At long last, they had their own new city with a local government and more service for their tax dollars. In June of the same year, 92% voted to accept the City Charter and elected their first Mayor and City Council - Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez, Vice Mayor Pete Cabrera, and Council Members Mike DiPietro, Sandra Ruiz, and Robert Van Name. In August, the City Council took their oath of office.
In 2002, the KSL Hotel Corporation, the company now operating Doral Golf Resort & Spa, filed a lawsuit against Hotel Intercontinental for using Doral in its name. They also wanted the new City to pay $1,000 a month for 22 years for use of the name Doral. The elected officials went to bat and the Resort agreed not to charge for the name usage. The Hotel also reached an agreement and changed its name to Intercontinental at Doral Miami.
The City of Doral has come a very long way in a very short time and is attracting positive attention from Fortune 100 corporations, mom-and-pop businesses, young families and retirees. More and more people are choosing Doral every day - For all the right reasons!
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