New Ave Maria community looks to attract families

Site plan for Maple Ridge at Ave Maria.

Site plan for Maple Ridge at Ave Maria.

A new home builder is coming to Ave Maria, with plans to construct at least 1,500 single-family homes in a community that will mirror one of its most successful ones on Florida’s east coast.

Naples-based Barron Collier Cos., a co-developer of Ave Maria, will build the new neighborhood in a joint partnership with CC Devco, based in Coral Gables, minutes from downtown Miami.

Longtime developers Armando Codina and Jim Carr founded CC Devco in 2008 and have been involved in more than 40 residential projects across the state, including one called Monterra in Cooper City, southwest of Fort Lauderdale. Monterra is one of Florida’s fastest growing communities — and it’s the one that will be repeated in the growing town of Ave Maria, 40 miles east of Naples.

CC Devco is buying out the interests of Ave Maria University and Tom Monaghan, the founder of the town and the university, in a chunk of undeveloped land south and east of the town center. The deal, which is expected to close in the next month or two, involves 618 acres that will become Maple Ridge at Ave Maria. The purchase price of those interests was not disclosed.

Monaghan and Barron Collier Cos. formed a 50-50 private partnership called Ave Maria Development to own and develop a new town surrounding a Catholic university. At build out, Ave Maria is expected to have 11,000 homes on its 4,000 acres.

CC Devco will join the town’s two other homebuilders: Pulte, the primary and original one, and Lennar. Those two are national builders, unlike CC Devco that has its eye on Florida.

The fact that Carr and Codina — two long-time and well respected developers in the state with more than 66 years of combined experience — chose to build in Ave Maria, when they have opportunities to build all over Florida shows their confidence in Ave Maria and the future of Collier County as the local housing market continues to heal, said Blake Gable, co-president of Barron Collier Cos.

“It’s the A team,” he said.

The partners are investing their own money in the community, which will be targeted at families. It will offer them safety and A-rated schools, just what they’re looking for, Carr said.

“It’s a straight, no nonsense single-family home community,” he said.

He said the town, with its town center, retail shops and schools, reminds him of a community called Weston, an affluent suburb in Broward County on Florida’s east coast, 25 years ago.

“All the bones are there and it’s an incredible place to live,” Carr said of Ave Maria.

The focus will be on value at Maple Ridge, which will offer larger homes with fancier features on larger lots, at nearly half the price found at other new communities closer to Naples.

Prices will range from the $190,000s to the low $300,000s. There are nine one- and two-story floor plans, spanning from 1,900 square feet to more than 4,000 square feet. Six of those models are the same ones built at Monterra, which came out of the ground three years ago.

Some of the fancier features will include a Roman-style tub with separate shower in the master bathroom, tile flooring, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and brick paver driveways.

“We’re going to offer more value for the dollar than any place in Southwest Florida,” Gable said. “Collier County is attracting some very, very good people, making significant investments.”

The community will fit with the original focus of Ave Maria, which was on providing more value, more amenities and a better lifestyle, Gable said.

Sales have picked up at Ave Maria, as they have elsewhere in the county, Gable said. Home sales and reservations made this year are approaching 50, he said.

There are about 500 homes built so far, most of them are lived-in and foreclosures are not a major problem, like they are in some communities, Blake said.

At Maple Ridge, Barron Collier Cos. will oversee the development of the land, including roads. There are plans to start building models within a few weeks, with the first ones expected to open by September.

The project, like any new housing development, will generate jobs, but Carr said he didn’t have an estimate of how many. Asked whether local workers will be hired, he said, “Our preference is always local help,” Carr said. “We’re trying to use as many subcontractors locally as possible.”

This is not the first time CC Devco has partnered with Barron Collier Cos. In 2011, CC Devco teamed up with Halstatt Partnership, part of Barron Collier Cos., to develop one of the last neighborhoods to be built in the affluent Grey Oaks community off Airport-Pulling Road on the northeast border of Naples. The neighborhood is known as Traditions, offering single-family villas and attached coach homes.

Ross McIntosh, a Naples broker and housing expert, said the first partnership was a good way for Barron Collier Cos. and the partners in CC Devco to validate that they’re like-minded and can work cooperatively in a joint venture.

He’s skeptical, however, about their latest venture. He points out that Pulte stopped focusing on single-family homes at Ave Maria 18 months ago, essentially abandoning the family market and concentrating on its resort-style Del Webb retirement community.

“Codina-Carr has lots of experience at big production subdivisions,” McIntosh said. “So if there is demand for that product out there, those guys can build them. I can’t tell you if there are buyers.”

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