Even as lack of demand and financing have slowed community development to a near standstill across the country, Nocatee, a huge master-planned community near Jacksonville, Fla., has kept developing, and the builders have continued to come.
Pulte's Del Webb division recently bought 579 acres in the 30-square-mile development by The PARC Group, nearly doubling the size of its Riverwood active-adult community to 1,018 acres with enough room for 2,000 homes plus a $12 million recreation and fitness center.
Ryland Homes recently bought land for a new community in Nocatee. And two months ago, The PARC Group broke ground on a new neighborhood called Kelly Pointe. Richmond American and David Weekley have already contracted to buy all 172 lots in the community where homes will sell for $200,000 to $250,000, a new lower niche price range for Nocatee.
"We are keeping the construction community alive" here, said Richard T. Ray, managing partner with The PARC Group. "We believed from the beginning that the market shift wasn't permanent, and we took advantage of that time to build infrastructure."
And he's not just talking about roads and curbs. The company is a month from opening a $20 million water park in the community with slides and a lazy river that would compare to something you would see at a national theme park.
"It gives our buyers the confidence that we are going to do what we are saying we will do," said Ray.
The PARC Group hasn't been hampered by financing because it doesn't have any third-party financing. "That helps," said Ray.
Nocatee, which is advertising itself as a new town, has been attracting more than new homes. The largest Publix grocery store in Northeast Florida at 54,000 square feet is opening in the town center. Shops are moving in, and the town's commercial land (there's more than 4 million square feet of corporate office space planned) is also moving.
The four-year-old development has location going for it. South of Jacksonville and north of St. Augustine, it carries a prestigious Ponte Vedra address. It's also just two miles west of the Atlantic Ocean and just east of I-95.
That's not to say that Nocatee is immune to the general home building malaise. "We could use a little help from the economy," Ray said. "But given the circumstances with the market, we are happy with where we are."