PETER RUMMELL HAS SEEN the future of recreational real estate, and it is no longer along the Atlantic Seaboard. At least not in such land-starved markets as Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, or the East and West Coasts of Florida.
It's not that the chairman of the St. Joe Co. is abandoning water-oriented development. With 346,000 acres within Northwest Florida's 10-mile coastal zone, JOE, as Rummell likes to call the company he has headed for the past eight years, is well positioned to continue satisfying the insatiable thirst for beach-style living.
But with more than 500,000 inland acres under its ownership, Florida's largest private landowner is betting there's a whole group of buyers who would just as soon reconnect with their past.
Rummell even has a name for it, and it's not the “Green Acres Syndrome.” He calls it “New Ruralism.”
BONDING WITH NATURE “New Ruralism” is focused on re-establishing a bond with the land that was once the heart of America's farms, ranches, and rural communities, the St. Joe chairman said in outlining his vision for the development of the company's new concepts.
“JOE's New Ruralism products are for people seeking a simpler life from a simpler time and wanting to reconnect with the land without the need to make a living from it,” Rummell told a group of housing journalists this past summer. “Technology will provide a way to keep in touch with the real world, but at a safe distance.”
In the settings the company envisions, privacy is paramount. Larger home sites of up to 150 acres, many separated by nature preserves or agricultural land, provide a buffer between neighbors. Unlike “New Urbanism,” which by design all but mandates community interaction, the front porch here will be a place to scan the vastness of your own domain.
Day-to-day activities contrast as well. Of course, owners can still choose to participate in activities of the greater communities if they so desire. But JOE's concept goes beyond creating the feel of small-town America to a setting where experiences are more in tune with the rhythm of nature, to a time when people rose with the sun, fished with the tides, and rested with the moon.
PRODUCT TYPES Under the common theme of living closer to nature, the company is bringing three different and distinct “New Ruralism” products to market: RiverCamps, White-Fence Farms, and Florida Ranches.
First offered two years ago, RiverCamps are personal retreats in planned settlements and are billed as JOE's “best effort to recapture the spirit of a way of life that is slipping through our fingers.” Here, low-density home sites are sold free-simple and are surrounded by a large common area preserved for conservation and what Rummell described as “big water.”