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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jan. 15, 201804:27 PM EST

Strong submarkets, infill growth opportunities

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NEFBA president says new home development is on a “healthy pace.”
by: Andrew Warfield Staff Writer

A quick glance at a current map of new residential subdivisions produced by thefloridahomebuyer.com reveals what people in the homebuilding and real estate industries intuitively know: St. Johns and southern Duval counties dominate the new home market.

Of the 41 new subdivisions listed, 35 are south of Butler Boulevard and east of the St. Johns River, 27 of those in St. Johns County.

Four developments are shown in Clay County and two more in Nassau County.

Not all developments are included — Nassau’s Wildlight is an example — but the map provides a not only clear indication of where new development is focused, but also where it likely is headed next, according to Chris Dostie, president of Dostie Homes and 2018 president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

“I think what it tells us is we are going to start seeing submarkets in our area start to grow,” said Dostie. “There is no question that Clay County and Nassau County and Northwest Jacksonville present some great opportunities for further growth. It’s natural for all those places to grow, but I certainly think Clay with the construction of First Coast Expressway is about to really get started. And Nassau, with Wildlight getting going, is going to be a real eye-opener for the residential market up there.

“I don’t see St. Johns slowing down, but I see other markets starting to grow.”

Beyond the suburban master planned communities, Dostie expects new construction to move toward the city center in the form of boutique and infill projects. 

For example, national homebuilder KB Home announced last month the 109-home Price Park to be built on three parcels it assembled in Mandarin near Hood Road South and Lourcey Road. 

“We’ll always have residential subdivisions with amenity centers. That’s never going away,” Dostie said. “But there will be redevelopment in existing areas, and we will play a role in that.”

Dostie said NEFBA should play a role in the redevelopment of Downtown neighborhoods as well.

He sees a renewed interest in living Downtown not only as projects such as The District on the Southbank and The Shipyards on the Northbank continue to be discussed, but also in renewal efforts taking place in Springfield and LaVilla.

“How is NEFBA going to be involved in the regeneration of Downtown Jacksonville? I don’t know today, but I think this year we have to start to broaden our outlook a little and identify parts of the market where we are not in today and start to position ourselves to be a force and a factor in those areas,” Dostie said.

All of which contributes to what he calls a “healthy balance” between supply and demand, even as home prices are approaching pre-recession levels.

“Prices are creeping up, but when you look at the number of permits pulled, we’re not at those prior levels,” Dostie said.

“I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone to tell you we were at a healthy number (of construction permits) back then, and obviously we weren’t. We’re at a good pace now and I don’t think it grows exponentially, but I think it continues to grow,” he said.

That growth, though, will continue to challenge homebuilders as they struggle with the limited field of subcontractors while the strained supply of manpower becomes even more diminished as recovery work from last summer’s hurricanes continues.

“Obviously we’re still uncovering some of the challenges that hurricanes Irma and Matthew had on our area and on the supplies here as well as the Houston area,” Dostie said. 

“What does that look like in the coming year? Can builders get the homes built with the limited resources? For NEFBA, it’s working to educate our membership on what’s going on in the supply chain-related businesses. We have some fantastic members on that side of the industry, so we will lean on them to come in and provide some information to understand what the bottlenecks are, and how to plan for it,” he said.

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