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Realty Builder
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jun. 14, 201811:18 AM EST


Teardowns surge as the nearly built-out Beaches draw buyers who want new homes.
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

On the southern tip of Ponte Vedra Boulevard at Mickler Road, GreenPointe Communities has 23 lots ready for new custom homes in EvenTide. A few miles north, Dream Finders Homes is building Preserve at Ponte Vedra Lakes, a 68-home enclave just west of Florida A1A priced up to $599,900.

Immediately south of Ponte Vedra Boulevard, Marsh Dunes II, a strip of 12 lots across A1A from the beach, is underway. Together, they represent the few multiple-lot opportunities for residential development in the Beaches communities.


Being essentially built out hasn’t dampened the demand for beach community homes, although to be certain, opportunities for new homes on newly developed sites on or within a few blocks of the beach are rapidly dwindling.

Ed Burr, CEO of GreenPointe Communities, said EvenTide offers a special home-buying opportunity in Ponte Vedra Beach.

“We have a great advantage being across from the beach with a private beach access for our residents, plus the ability to back up to the Guana River,” said Burr. “Our offering is unique and really sets us apart from the other remaining opportunities there.

“There is a finite supply of land for new housing in Ponte Vedra Beach. EvenTide, a small piece that’s just north of us, are about it. There are no more ready land opportunities for new housing east of A1A in Ponte Vedra Beach,” he said.

The same holds true north of Ponte Vedra Beach, from Jacksonville Beach to Neptune Beach.

That’s where custom homebuilders such as Bob Leinenweber, owner of Eastern Shores Construction, have the room to operate. Leinenweber, who specializes in large-scale renovations and custom homebuilding, said teardowns, both on and within four blocks west of the beach, are gaining momentum in the built-out Beaches communities.

“In the last few years we have seen predominantly teardowns and new construction over renovations,” said Leinenweber. “I would say coastal living — three to four blocks off the ocean east of AIA — is very strong and has been for a while.”

Teardowns aren’t always an option for beach property buyers. Neptune Beach, for example, permits only 35 percent lot coverage for new construction.

“I think we’ve seen a change in the market in that, depending on the municipality you’re in, the land development code can sometimes inhibit a teardown because the existing structure is nonconforming and you would have to make the new home much smaller,” Leinenweber said.

Atlantic Beach allows for 50 percent lot coverage, Leinenweber said, making teardowns a more viable option. Leinenweber said in Atlantic Beach, it isn’t unusual for a buyer to pay $500,000 to $700,000 for a home only to tear it down and start over. In many of these cases, the purchase price is essentially the land value only.

“Once you get east of A1A, the density becomes an issue,” Leinenweber said. “There is pressure to minimize the density by limiting what you can build, but on the whole I am seeing more teardowns than I did during the previous boom.”

Ponte Vedra Beach offers greater opportunity, Leinenweber said, because the lots are larger and the original structures smaller, often much smaller, than their replacements. Vacation or seasonal homes are being replaced by full-time family homes.

“Those properties have the benefit of being larger lots with older homes to start with, and I have seen a huge increase in teardowns there,” Leinenweber said. “The new construction on those lots are monster, amazingly high-end homes that easily cost more than $350 per square foot to build.”

With sizes from one-third to about 1 acre, lots in EvenTide begin at $600,000 and approach $1 million. Preferred builders are Glenn Layton Homes and Arthur Rutenberg Homes by Mark Refosco. Burr said he expects home prices to start at about $1 million and top out at nearly $2 million.

The popularity of teardowns, despite the costs, prove there remains an appetite for paying premium dollar for a beach location.

“It’s hard to come to Florida and the first thought people not have is the living at the beach,” Burr said. “When you can walk to the beach from your home, that is a special lifestyle.

He said the Ponte Vedra lifestyle “is different from Jacksonville Beach because it has large houses on large lots. It has evolved over the last 20 years and there are now a lot of families with kids.”

Leinenweber agreed that proximity to the coast is as popular as ever.

“What we saw in 2000 to 2003 was a similar market to today,” he said. There were a lot of teardowns and new construction. There were more speculative builders you never heard of, but when things started to turn in 2007 to 2009 there were pockets within the Beaches where the property was still desired, but the price point dropped significantly.”

Prices are back and the desire for the coastal lifestyle remains, despite the dwindling supply.

“If you think somebody is going to build on it,”  Leinenweber said, “they probably already are.”

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