Water is a central element in the site plan development of BridgeWater, which was built on reclaimed phosphate-mining land and includes five deep, crystal-clear lakes. As a result, 90 percent of the lots in the community have a lake view. In brainstorming names for the lakes, the sales and marketing team at Jacksonville, Fla.–based developer LandMar Group decided to find five outstanding women related to the history of Lakeland, Fla., and name the lakes after them.
“We did a couple of small focus groups in Lakeland to make sure we weren't being exploitive,” says Jim Doyle, LandMar Group's vice president of sales and marketing. “They loved it. A lot of people didn't even know these ladies existed.”
They spent nine months working with the local historical society to identify the five women, contact them or their heirs, and ask their permission.
In February 2007, the official ceremony was held to name the lakes, featuring Hazel Haley as guest of honor. Lake Hazel is named for Haley, who retired in 2006 after a 69-year career in the classroom and is recognized as the state's longest-serving teacher. Lake Jane is for Jane Morrell, who donated the land for Lakeland's first hospital. Lake Ruth honors Ruth Elder, who was the first woman to attempt to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Serena pays homage to Serena Bailey Ross, the city's longest-serving librarian. And Lake Peggy is named for former mayor Peggy Brown.
“It was a very calculated marketing move, but it was honest,” Doyle says. “We had these five lakes. We said, ‘Instead of just giving them names, let's give them names that mean something.'”
The decision paid off handsomely. Joining Haley and local dignitaries at the naming ceremony were reporters from three daily newspapers, three TV stations, and four magazines, giving BridgeWater an estimated $1 million worth of media coverage.
IDEAL LOCATION While the lakes are a major amenity for the 633-acre community, they're far from the only reason that BridgeWater has averaged 15 sales per month, despite opening in August 2006, when the market had already begun to experience a serious cooling off.
As always, location plays a huge role in the appeal. The development is located about 30 minutes between Tampa and Orlando along the I-4 corridor, convenient for commuters with jobs in either city who prefer the more relaxed pace of a small town. It's also popular with empty-nesters looking to retire in a place that facilitates taking family and friends to the Orlando theme parks and the Tampa-area beaches.
BridgeWater has also proved attractive to longtime Lakeland residents, who've never had the option of a master planned community with a full amenity package.
“That was the surprise to us—how many people from Lakeland wanted to move here,” says Grady Miars, Florida West Coast regional manager for LandMar.