Last summer David Langhout, vice president of land acquisition for Taylor Woodrow Home's central Florida division, casually showed an aerial land photograph to John Peshkin, CEO for the company's North American operations.

“John, look what I'm going after,” Langhout told him.

Peshkin took one look at the green 80-acre rectangle of trees and pastureland surrounded by suburbia and sitting a scant mile from the blue Gulf of Mexico.

“Whatever it takes, Dave, you go get it,” Langhout recalls Peshkin telling him.

Six months and $40 million later, the Sarasota County land was in Taylor Woodrow's portfolio—one of the priciest per-acre purchases in Sarasota County history.

“We like the location,” says Douglas Schwartz, Taylor Woodrow's regional president for Florida home building. “We were surprised to find 80 contiguous acres left.”

And it was land on the main road to Siesta Key and only four miles from the center of the city of Sarasota. “It was one of those pieces that everyone just assumed would stay in the family,” Schwartz says.

The land had been in the Wilson family since 1945. Last summer Clyde H. Wilson Jr. decided to sell the land, which had sat in a family trust since the death of his father, Clyde H. Wilson Sr., in 1994. Rather than call a broker, Wilson called his accountant and an environmental consultant to provide a list of developers with the means to buy the family land, says Langhout.

RIPE FOR DEVELOPMENT: The 80 acres of land long owned by the Wilson family and surrounded by suburbia now belongs to Taylor Woodrow. Taylor Woodrow was on both lists.

“It was our lucky day,” when Wilson's accountant called to offer Taylor Woodrow a chance to bid on the land, says Langhout.

Taylor Woodrow, along with several other bidders, spent three months making offers. “He was an astute seller, and he worked with a number of folks,” says Schwartz. “The purchase price floated up to the market value.”

Taylor Woodrow, however, was not the top bidder. Wilson told Taylor Woodrow another purchaser had offered $2 million more, but that he had decided Taylor Woodrow was a higher-quality builder who would leave a better legacy on the family's land.

Taylor Woodrow's financial means is likely to have played a part as well, says Schwartz.

“I think there were a couple of things that we did that gave him some confidence that we were more likely to close on the property,” says Schwartz.

Taylor Woodrow bid on the land last summer when the market was peaking. It closed in January, just as it had become clear the market was slowing. No worries, says Langhout. “His [Peshkin's] belief was that, with this type of location, it doesn't matter what the market conditions are, we can create a community that can sell,” Langhout explains.

“We like Florida,” says Schwartz. “We like the demographics that it has going for it.”

Taylor Woodrow's North American headquarters are nearby, just across the Sarasota line in Bradenton.

“We paid well for the land,” says Schwartz. “But land is getting more expensive all the time. Although the number was big, it was the right land.”

The parcel was more valuable because it came entitled for residential development—4.5 units per acre. Finding land with entitlements, as well as the availability of utility infrastructure, is becoming a huge challenge in Florida. Wilson had the land rezoned from agricultural to residential before he offered it for sale. And Taylor Woodrow is submitting a site plan that should only require county staff approval—no need for public hearings or votes from elected officials before construction can begin, says Langhout.

The site does have some site planning challenges to achieve the full density of 360 homes. Some of the land is environmentally sensitive, and Taylor Woodrow plans to set aside 30 percent as permanent open space laced with walking trails.

The community, recently named Pacifico, will have a Tuscany feel, says Lonnie Herman, Taylor Woodrow's vice president of sales and marketing for central Florida. “And we are going to incorporate a lot of things that are California,” he says.

While Pacifico will not be age-restricted, the marketing will be targeted at 50-somethings, Sarasota's main demographic.

Most of the homes will be attached—townhomes or stacked quadriplexes with the look of townhomes. However, 100 detached courtyard homes are planned as well. The homes will range from 2,100 to 2,400 square feet and sell for between $600,000 and $800,000, says Langhout.

Sales should begin late this year, with construction next year. And the company already has a name for the top of the list. The former owner, who is still currently still living in the family home on the land, wants to have first dibs on one of the new houses.

“Very early on, he said, ‘I want to buy a unit there and I am willing to pay market, but I want first choice,'” says Langhout.

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