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Realty Builder
Jax Daily Record Tuesday, May 15, 201811:00 AM EST

Infill, suburban sprawl and 60 years of Dosties

Local and national builders are beginning to scoop up vacant properties in Jacksonville to build boutique infill single-family, townhome and apartment developments.
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

One indication that you are in a city on the rise is witnessing a rising trend in residential infill development.

That occurs when builders and developers can get their hands on smaller parcels that for a variety of reasons were left behind in the mad dash from the urban core toward suburbia.

These are pieces of land that you can drive past every day and go unnoticed. And then, once you do notice them, you wonder why they were never developed while everything around them was.

Maybe the long-ago owners were reticent to sell, hanging on to the desire for the bucolic lifestyle they’d come to know and love. Or perhaps when land around them was acquired, they couldn’t agree on a price and were left behind.

Maybe there were issues with the parcels that modern construction techniques can now resolve.

Regardless, local and national builders are beginning to scoop up vacant properties in Jacksonville to build boutique infill single-family, townhome and apartment developments.

Some are redevelopments where higher and better uses have been identified. None of it, however, occurs without thorough market research that indicates that people want to move back into town. 

Infill comes in a variety of forms.

TerraWise Homes is leading the way to build on undeveloped single-family lots in historic Springfield.

National builders are identifying smaller sites for townhome developments.

Lennar, for example, is planning townhomes off Atlantic Boulevard along Little Pottsburg Creek.

KB Home is building the 109-home Price Park on 33 acres off Hood Road South and Lourcey Road in Mandarin.

New apartments will soon be on the rise in San Marco. 

That’s just to name a few.

All of it because people want to shed the commute and be closer to the Downtown area, where the long-standing potential of Jacksonville appears to be gaining momentum.

Adaptive reuse is turning historic Downtown high-rises into modern offices and residences. Possible redevelopment along the Southbank and Northbank is garnering more publicity. There is talk of gondolas stretching across the St. Johns River. Perhaps soon there will be plans announced for The Shipyards near the sports and entertainment complex.

There’s a buzz around Downtown, and new residential development poised to capture that enthusiasm will mean new fertile ground for Realtors.

No St. Johns slowdown
The trend toward infill, though, doesn’t mean new suburban communities are any less popular. To the contrary, the County Road 210 corridor in St. Johns County has never been hotter.

Beachwalk is filling its 14-acre Crystal Lagoon and is well underway in building its more than 700 homes there.

Across the road, Beacon Lake is working on completing its iconic entryway, and just to the east Creekside continues to build homes. 

Combined, the three comprise the New Twin Creeks Planned Unit Development on 3,000 acres, which is entitled for about 3,000 homes, plus retail and commercial space.

And, of course, there’s Nocatee, the 13,300-acre, 12,000-home master-planned community that straddles St. Johns and Duval counties. It’s less than halfway built.

West of Interstate 95 on County Road 210, Shearwater is moving into new phases, and along the St. Johns River, RiverTown last month opened the River Club amenity center — its second amenity area — to serve residents of the master-planned community still in its infancy. It is entitled for some 4,500 homes on about 4,500 acres. 

Toll Brothers last month acquired the last parcels of its Julington Lakes community off Longleaf Pine Parkway and, when the market is right, earth movers are poised to clear even more pine forest. 

In all, St. Johns County has approved about 66,000 rooftops that have yet to be developed, much of it in the northern part of the county.

In-town infill or suburban PUDs, there’s still plenty of room for everyone.

Whether there are plenty of roads for them, though, is another matter altogether, a condition that may go far in explaining the infill trend.

Dostie at 60

When Realty-Builder’s parent publication, the Daily Record, recently marked its 105th anniversary, its writers and editors embarked on a search for fellow family-owned centenarian businesses — the newspaper was founded by the Bailey family and was sold to Observer Media Group in January 2017 — with the idea of featuring what would surely be several of them in a special edition.

We found two.

While that longevity is certainly impressive, it would not have made for an effective special section.

But that search for old family businesses did illustrate that it’s difficult for any commercial enterprise to endure decades of economic upheavals, changing market conditions, mergers and acquisitions, etc. 

Particularly true in homebuilding, that’s why the 60th anniversary of the Dostie family building homes in Northeast Florida is noteworthy. 

Although Dostie Homes does not exist in its original form, brothers Chris and Rick Dostie are the third generation to carry on the Dostie legacy that began when J. Rene Dostie sought to escape the bitter Canadian winters to bring his homebuilding enterprise south to take advantage of the moderate climate and the promise of a burgeoning market.

The Dostie brothers’ father, Richard, sold the second-generation business to Toll Brothers in 2003. Chris and Rick Dostie continued to build homes outside the immediate area until the terms of a noncompete agreement were met, then returned to resume their role as one of the region’s pre-eminent builders. This year, the company built one of four “Dream Homes” entries in the Parade of Homes, all valued at more then $1 million.

In an interview with Realty-Builder before taking the reins of the Northeast Florida Builders Association in January, Chris Dostie said the organization must consider the growing trend of urban infill as it sets forth on its membership-benefiting agenda.

Which brings us back to where started, figuratively and literally.



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