Founded in 1954 in Miami, General Development Corporation began developing subdivisions with inexpensive homes throughout the state. By the mid 1960’s the Miami/Fort Lauderdale region had already emerged as one of the 15 most populated urban areas in the country but much of the state remained barren.
The brothers began buying hundreds of thousands of acres of land in the 1950’s and gradually developed planned communities like Marco Island, Port Charlotte, Port St Lucie, Spring Hill, Deltona, Port St John and others. Other planned communities such as Westinghouse developed Coral Springs (my hometown) popped up in this period.
Later the Arvida and Lennar Corporations also built developments up and down the peninsula on the Mackle model. More recently, after the death of Ed Ball in 1981, The St Joe Corporation began focusing on land development particularly in the Panhandle. As an already established large landowner, St Joe was uniquely positioned to replicate the Mackle model.
A fairly comprehensive history of the Mackle families involvement in the development of the state (and other business interests) can be found here. The corporation created a template that others have followed that have created a Florida of planned suburban and exurban developments – sprawlish areas that have become even more problematic in an era where Republican legislators don’t take growth management as seriously as their Democratic predecessors did. It can of course be argued the check on the GOP legislatures unwillingness to continue with the the types of growth management and concurrency laws we had in the past was the great recession of 2008 – but as legislative session approaches and our elected lawmakers once again do not do anything to curtail the over development of the state that threatens our long-term sustainability, water supply and livability.
At this time it is important to remember how the Mackle brothers contributed to the creation of modern Florida.