Building a community around a lifestyle

Developers have broader focus on community amenities

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  • | 12:00 p.m. December 16, 2016
The Residents Club amenities center under construction last month at Tamaya.
The Residents Club amenities center under construction last month at Tamaya.
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By Maggie FitzRoy, Contributing Writer

The centerpiece of Beacon Lake, a new St. Johns County community, will be a 43-acre lake surrounded by woodlands.

Residents will be able to enjoy a direct view of the lake from the spacious front porch of the community’s 8,000-square-foot amenity center that will include two pools, a sand beach, a boardwalk and a culinary studio and demonstration kitchen.

In Tamaya, homeowners will be able to embrace the Northeast Florida lifestyle at the Jacksonville community’s $11 million Residents Club, complete with resort-style pool, an event lawn and a yoga and Pilates studio.

And at TrailMark, a new master planned community adjacent to World Golf Village, residents will soon have access to a kayak launch at Six Mile Creek at one of the neighborhood parks, as well as miles of bike and walking trails throughout a natural landscape of oak hammocks.

People of all ages are increasingly buying a lifestyle when they purchase a new home, and developers in Northeast Florida are working hard to give them what they want.

“We put in a lot of time and effort and expense” with Beacon Lake, said Bruce Parker, managing director of BBX Capital Real Estate, at its mid-November groundbreaking.

Compared to the way they were prior to the economic downturn in 2008, “buyers today are more discerning,” he said later in a phone interview. In a buildup to the bust, many buyers didn’t even care so much where a community was located, “the market was so hot, people were just buying and flipping.”

Now, people are looking for community, a place where they can connect with their neighbors and with nature, said TrailMark developer Ed Burr, president and CEO of GreenPointe Holdings.

His company offers homes there in five different price points to appeal to a broad market.

“One of the attractions of Florida is its healthy outdoor environment,” he said. People of more modest means as well as those with upper tier finances “demand that lifestyle.”

ICI Homes, the developer and sole builder of Tamaya, is closing out the first phase of the gated community on Beach Boulevard, not far from Mayo Clinic.

It is attracting medical and other professionals who are looking to live “literally between the city and the sea,” said Rosy Messina, vice president of marketing and online sales. Most are families, and the huge Residence Club — slated to be completed early next year — is designed to give every member of the family what they are looking for.

With a ballroom, outdoor cafe, tennis courts, basketball, and a giant pool slide, “it’s like a theme park,” she said. “The second phase is selling very fast.”

ICI has developed many communities in the past, and is creating one in Nassau County: Amelia National in Fernandina Beach. It has about 900 lots, of which about 40 percent are sold. About 50 percent of buyers are coming from outside Florida, so it has more of a resort style design.

Tamaya, however, is mostly attracting buyers who already live in the area, Messina said.

With an Old World European, Tuscan-inspired design, it features smaller footprint-lots than the company has traditionally offered in the past, ranging from 50 to 85 feet. The homes are customized, “because when people come to us they know exactly what they want,” she said. They also expect hardwood floors, kitchen islands, open designs, great rooms and digital wiring, “so we give it to them.”

The smaller lot sizes help keep costs down, because land has become more expensive. Now, as the economy and real estate market continues to recover, “people are more careful with their finances,” Messina said. They want to do other things with their money besides spend it on a house. And they also want to spend more time outdoors, which is why many of the homes come with backyard fire pits, waterfalls and summer kitchens.

Outdoor living is built into the 630 acres of Beacon Lake, of which 180 acres will remain natural conservation land. The two builders there, ICI Homes and Dream Finders Homes, expect to have model homes ready by mid-2017.

The community is designed to be pedestrian friendly, with winding streets off a main boulevard and pocket parks throughout. The signature lake will offer water activities that include kayaking, fishing and paddle boarding.

No homes in Beacon Lake will be located back-to-back. Most will be either on the lake or a landscaped buffer or bordering a conservation area, Parker said.

The community’s style is Coastal Vernacular, with a Cape Cod vibe that is unusual in Northeast Florida. Almost every house will have a front porch, to enhance the feeling of neighborhood. “For us, it makes sense to do something different, give people a choice,” Parker said.

With the huge master-planned community of Nocatee next door, “we have to be smarter at what we do. We are going to carve out a very special niche in a great location.”

“Markets change all the time. Markets evolve, buyers evolve,” said Burr.

But at GreenPointe, “we’ve always had a philosophy that building comes with lifestyle. We think lifestyle master plan communities have always been a greater advantage.”