Shea Homes, the nation's No. 1 private home builder, finally secured a beachhead in the Florida market, agreeing to buy as many as 705 home sites to become the exclusive builder in an active-adult community in DeLand, Florida developed by The St. Joe Co.

"The alliance between Shea Homes and Joe will allow both companies to focus on what they do best while delivering a superior product to our customers," said Rick Andreen, president of Shea Homes' resort communities. "Joe's entitlements and place-making skills make it a very valuable partner in Florida. Bringing our expertise in serving the needs of baby boomers to this vibrant community is a natural extension of our company's strengths. We see this as a strong first step in expanding Shea Homes' business across Florida."

Under the Shea-St. Joe agreement, Shea has agreed to buy 168 finished home sites through a take-down arrangement and up to 705 total, St. Joe announced. Shea Homes is currently building throughout Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington and North Carolina.

Just a year ago, Shea was striving to gain entry into the then booming Sunshine State. At the time, the company was negotiating to acquire Minto, a south Florida builder of master-planned, podium and high-rise communities. Sources at the time also reported Shea was talking to Metro Development Group, a land developer, about buying acreage to expand its Trilogy active adult product.

For St. Joe, Shea's buy-in comes at an opportune time. Home construction in the active-adult section of Victoria Park in DeLand has be at a near stand-still since St. Joe decided to get out of the home building business and focus on developing its huge land holdings in the state last September. The company brought in David Weekley Homes to build in its golf course-community and Victoria Park. Beazer Homes has committed to building in a fourth neighborhood under development now as well as in other St. Joe communities across the state.

"Shea Homes has an outstanding reputation as a high-quality, customer-focused home builder, and we are pleased they chose to enter the Florida market at Victoria Park," said Britt Greene, Chief Operating Officer of St. Joe. "Shea's experience in designing and developing communities for baby boomers is best in class. We look forward to working with them and creating value for our respective companies and customers for many years to come."