IT'S AN OLD STORY IN HOME BUILDING: One builder's disaster becomes another's dream development. That certainly was the case for The Harborage on Braden River in Bradenton, Fla. An old guava grove that had been overrun by Brazilian peppers, it came on the market after the owner had failed in an effort to have the 56-acre parcel zoned for townhouses.

Fortunately for Pat Neal, president of Bradenton-based Neal Communities, obtaining zoning and entitlements is one of his “unique abilities,” he says. He knew an opportunity when he saw one—an inland site with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico doesn't come along every day. The project was approved at nine units per acre, and he originally planned to build 508 apartments. A shift in the market led him to change his plans, reducing the number of units to 234 and moving to a mix of single-family houses, town-homes, and condominiums. The time from the initial approval until the first models opened—a period that included eradicating the non-native Brazilian peppers and returning the site to pristine condition—was just about four years.

Neal Communities' niche in the market has traditionally been active adult. “Our strategy is to float above the national builder with a customized production product,” says Neal, but for The Harborage, the target buyer expanded to include young singles, couples, and families. “We employed Bloodgood Sharp Buster to do the exciting classical townhomes that they did at Baldwin Park in Orlando,” Neal says. “We thought it was a very strong product—they've done classical architecture to fit a modern lifestyle.”


The community basically has sold itself, says marketing director Amanda Brackett. “Its location on the river is very inviting,” she says. “There's a bridge going over the main road, and people could see our property as they drove by. When you drive in, it's so charming and well kept. It's not hard to sell.”

Project: The Harborage on Braden River, Bradenton, Fla.

Date sales started: November 2004

Sales through February 2006: 160

Total units planned: 234

Unit size: 1,400 to 2,300 square feet

Price range: $350,00 to $509,000

Builder/Developer: Neal Communities, Bradenton

Architect: Bloodgood Sharp Buster, Tampa, Fla.

BEHIND THE SCENES Proximity to caffeine: About a mile to Peach's Restaurant

Poultry items in a model: Two

Sales center munchies of choice: Chocolate chip cookies and Neal Communities bottled water

Sunset central: The Welcome Center. You can see the sun rise from the rear pool area, and watch it set from the front door.

Sales staff's fave feature in the best-selling plan: The kitchen in the Beaufort model because the under-cabinet windows and angled ceiling add interest

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL.