Planned North Naples resort community more proof local economy on rebound, some say

A total of 64 acres of land is cleared off Immokalee Road for the future Lantana community, Thursday, July 26, 2012, in Naples, Fla. This is the 10th and last neighborhood in the Olde Cypress development in North Naples. Lantana will have 122 one- and two-story single-family homes.

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A total of 64 acres of land is cleared off Immokalee Road for the future Lantana community, Thursday, July 26, 2012, in Naples, Fla. This is the 10th and last neighborhood in the Olde Cypress development in North Naples. Lantana will have 122 one- and two-story single-family homes.

— A new resort-style gated community will soon sprout in North Naples, sprawling over nearly 1,800 acres.

It will join a dizzying number of new communities in the past year that have launched or announced plans to build, as the housing market recovers from a boom gone bust in Southwest Florida.

Taylor Morrison announced the new community Wednesday, located on Immokalee Road three miles east of Interstate 75. The project — formerly known as Mirasol — will be on the northwest corner of Immokalee Road and Collier Boulevard.

"The good news is beginning to outweigh the bad, simple as that," said Ross McIntosh, a Naples broker and housing expert. "This is what the recovery looks like."

New home permits continue to rise.

"It looks to me like building permits are up 30 percent in Collier County over last year," McIntosh said. "It's still largely concentrated in single-family."

As construction picks up, so do jobs. Taylor Morrison's project alone is expected to create and support an estimated 600 to 800 jobs per year.

"It's a picture of the recovery," McIntosh said. "It's America going back to work."

The turnaround doesn't just help construction workers. It means work for machine operators, engineers, surveyors, landscapers, interior designers and others whose business is tied to new development.

"It's a big deal," McIntosh said.

Typically, 125 people touch a home at some point before it's finished, said Steve Kempton, president of Taylor Morrison's west Florida division.

"The construction industry adds a lot of volume to the workforce," he said.

In August, an agreement was announced that ended a decade-long fight to preserve wetlands in a northern Collier County slough, paving the way for Taylor Morrison to purchase the land where another group planned Mirasol. Environmental groups and the former developers finally found common ground with a revised project that dropped one of two planned golf courses and preserved some 1,100 acres of wetlands.

The new community will incorporate the wetlands, Kempton said. It will feature a miles-long walkway so residents can view and enjoy wildlife. The community, which will have about 1,100 homes, doesn't yet have a new name, but planning and permitting is in full swing.

"We're just finishing all our permitting up now," Kempton said. "We hope to break ground in January."

The community will have plenty of competition nearby, but it will be different from the pack of new developments in that it will include an 18-hole championship golf course.

"It's unique to the extent that it is the first new golf course that's been planned in six or seven years," McIntosh said.

The community will offer bundled golf, which means golf membership will be included in the purchase of a home making it more affordable.

Nearby, Lennar Homes has found success with its bundled golf course community, Heritage Bay, off Immokalee Road, which is nearly sold out.In January, G.L. Homes began sales at Riverstone, also off Immokalee Road in North Naples. Since then, it has sold more than 165 homes, said Patty Campbell, president of the homebuilder's Southwest Florida division. She expects Taylor Morrison to be successful too. She doesn't see them as direct competition, since Riverstone doesn't have a golf course.

"Bundled golf I think will do very well there," Campbell said.

Among other new projects that are now under way in Southwest Florida are Bonita Isles, a 220-home community that recently broke ground off Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs, and Hacienda Lakes, a 1,700-home community on the east side of Collier Boulevard at Rattlesnake Hammock Road where dirt has started moving.

Other resort-style communities, like Treviso Bay, Fiddler's Creek and TwinEagles, have been revived, with the inventory of resale homes continuing to shrink in Southwest Florida.

A year ago, there were only a few active new communities, including Manchester Square in Naples and the Preserve at Corkscrew in Estero, McIntosh said.

"This is a new phenomenon," he said.

Much of the demand for new homes is being driven by seasonal buyers, who are coming from northern states and are about to retire.

"We see that buyer as a discretionary buyer saying, 'I'm ready to move to Florida into a lifestyle community and the time is now,' " Kempton said.

It helps that interest rates are at an all-time low, Kempton said.

"It's a wonderful time to buy," he said. "We're starting to see some cost pressures on our material costs and labor. Prices will be forced to go up."

He called his new project "the last infill piece of any size" in its corridor.

"North Naples is a wonderful location in terms of access to the interstate, the beach, all of the shopping and retail and hospitals," Kempton said.

The community will include 170 acres of lakes and offer tennis courts with stadium seating, a pro shop for golf and tennis, trails for walkers, joggers and cyclists, and other amenities, such as a resort-style pool, clubhouse and wellness center.

The project will offer single-family homes and condominiums, ranging from 1,600 square feet to 4,000 square feet. Pricing hasn't been determined yet.

A grand opening is slated for January 2014.

"We're not buffering the wetlands," Kempton said. "We're trying to integrate the community so it's eco-friendly, all the way through to the wellness programs."

Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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