Residential developer closes on $68M land deal in East Naples

Collier Enterprises and developer Minto Communities announced Monday they will be reviving plans to develop an area of undeveloped land between Dollar Bay and US 41 East, at right a 2300-acre development named Sabal Bay. Minto Communities said that more than 50 percent of the development will be reserved for natural habitat including a network of large lakes, acres of preserves and miles of trails.

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Collier Enterprises and developer Minto Communities announced Monday they will be reviving plans to develop an area of undeveloped land between Dollar Bay and US 41 East, at right a 2300-acre development named Sabal Bay. Minto Communities said that more than 50 percent of the development will be reserved for natural habitat including a network of large lakes, acres of preserves and miles of trails.

Minto Communities has closed on one of the biggest land deals in Southwest Florida since the housing market went bust.

The family owned Canadian company has purchased the old Sabal Bay property in East Naples for $68 million, county records show. The deal — finalized Dec. 27 — paves the way for Minto to become one of the largest homebuilders in Collier County over the next decade.

"It may very well be the largest third-party transaction in recent memory," said Naples broker and housing expert Ross McIntosh.

He predicted the sales price would be at least $80 million. No other terms of the sale were disclosed.

The former owners, Collier Enterprises, revived the 2,300-acre residential project last year. It's no longer called Sabal Bay. The development — now named The Isles of Collier Preserve — will have more than 1,600 homes.

"We are very excited to be part of such an historic piece of property and we're looking forward to bringing it to market in 2014," said William Bullock, a vice president for Minto in Florida.

About 1,300 acres of the project will be preserves, lakes and natural habitat. There will be miles of natural trails for hiking, biking, walking and kayaking.

Asked if there were terms of the transaction that could bring Collier Enterprises more money from its big land sale, Bullock said that wouldn't be disclosed.

The sale of Sabal Bay is just one of a flurry of big land deals, many of which have yet to close. The deals continue to flow as the housing market recovers.

"It's a competitive market," McIntosh said. "So it will be interesting to see how Minto executes their plan."

In July, Minto announced plans to buy the undeveloped Sabal Bay property. The sale doesn't include the nearby Hamilton Harbor yacht club and marina, or land on U.S. 41 zoned for commercial development.

Minto has built about 20,000 homes in Florida since 1978, but mostly on the southeast coast. Its communities there include Olympia in Wellington near West Palm Beach and Artesia in Sunrise near Fort Lauderdale.

The builder's latest project won't be its first in Southwest Florida. It's already a builder in TwinEagles, a luxury gated golf community off Immokalee Road in North Naples. Its models opened there in late November and there have been sales, though the company won't disclose how many.

"We're seeing traffic on a daily basis," Bullock said.

Minto recently expanded into Bonita Springs, with a new 220-home community it calls Bonita Isles off Old 41 Road, near Bernwood Parkway. Models are under construction and should be open by next month. A few contracts for homes have already been signed, Bullock said.

"We are definitely very focused on Southwest Florida with these three communities," he said.

Clearing will begin soon at The Isles of Collier Preserve. A sales center is slated to open this fall, with the first models ready to tour in early 2014.

"So we have a full year of site development," Bullock said. "It's a big project."

Minto expects to build out the project over the next decade. It will be built south of Thomasson Drive and stretch from U.S. 41 on the east to Dollar Bay on the west, backing up to the revived Treviso Bay project.

"Time is of the essence on a purchase that size to start taking sales," McIntosh said. "I would expect lots of activity down there in coming weeks."

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