The centerpiece of Beacon Lake, a new community in St. Johns County, will be a 43-acre lake surrounded by woodland.
Residents will have a full view of the lake from the spacious porch of the community’s 8,000-square-foot leisure center, which will include two pools, a sandy beach, boardwalk, and a culinary studio and demonstration kitchen.
In Tamaya, homeowners can enjoy the northeast Florida lifestyle at the Jacksonville community’s $ 11 million Residents Club, which features a resort-style pool, event space, and yoga and Pilates studio.
And in TrailMark, a new masterplan-planned community next to the World Golf Village, residents will soon have access to a kayak launch on Six Mile Creek in one of the neighborhood parks, as well as miles of bike and hiking trails through a natural landscape of oak hammocks.
People of all ages are increasingly buying lifestyles when buying a new home, and developers in northeast Florida are working hard to give them what they want.
“We have invested a lot of time, effort and expense,” said Bruce Parker, Managing Director of BBX Capital Real Estate, at the groundbreaking ceremony in Beacon Lake in mid-November.
Compared to before the 2008 economic downturn, “buyers are more discerning today,” Parker said in a later interview.
In the run-up to bankruptcy, many buyers did not care where a municipality was located. “The market was so hot, people bought and just turned around,” he said.
Now people are looking for a place to connect with their neighbors and nature, said TrailMark developer Ed Burr, president and CEO of GreenPointe Holdings.
His company offers houses there in five price ranges in order to appeal to a broad market.
“One of the attractions of Florida is its healthy outdoor environment,” he said, adding that people of all financial levels “demand this lifestyle.”
ICI Homes, the developer and sole builder of Tamaya, is closing the first phase of the residential complex on Beach Boulevard, not far from the Mayo Clinic.
It attracts medical professionals and other professionals who want to “literally live between the city and the sea,” said Rosy Messina, vice president of marketing and online sales.
Most are families, and the huge Residents Club – due to be completed early next year – is designed to give every family member what they’re looking for.
With a ballroom, outdoor cafe, tennis courts, basketball and a giant pool slide, “it’s like a theme park,” said Messina. “The second phase sells very quickly.”
ICI Homes has developed many communities in the past and is starting one in Nassau County: Amelia National in Fernandina Beach.
It has about 900 lots, about 40 percent of which are sold. About half of the buyers are from outside Florida, so it has more of a resort feel to it.
However, Tamaya mainly attracts shoppers who live in the area, Messina said.
With an old European, Tuscan-inspired design, it offers smaller lots than the company has offered in the past, from 50 to 85 feet.
The houses are tailor-made, “because when people come to us, they know exactly what they want,” said Messina.
They expect hardwood floors, kitchen islands, open designs, great spaces, and digital cabling, “so we’re giving it to them,” she added.
The smaller lot sizes help keep costs down because land has become more expensive.
Now that the economy and real estate market continue to recover, “people are more careful with their finances,” said Messina.
They want to do other things with their money than spend it on a house. And they want to spend more time outdoors, which is why many of the homes have backyard fire pits, waterfalls, and summer kitchens.
The outdoor life is incorporated into Beacon Lake, which is 600 acres of which 180 acres remain a nature reserve.
The two local builders, ICI Homes and Dream Finders Homes, expect to have model homes ready by mid-2017.
The community is designed to be pedestrian friendly, with winding streets from a main boulevard and small parks.
The lake offers water activities like kayaking, fishing, and paddle boarding.
No houses in Beacon Lake will be back to back. Most will either be on the lake or a landscaped buffer, or border a nature reserve, Parker said.
The style of the community is Coastal Vernacular with a Cape Cod vibe that is unusual in northeast Florida.
Almost every home will have a porch to add a sense of the neighborhood.
“It makes sense for us to do something different, to give people a choice,” said Parker.
Speaking to the huge master plan community next door, he said, “We have to be smarter in what we do. We will open up a very special niche for ourselves in a great location. “
“Markets are always changing. Markets develop, buyers develop, ”said Burr.
But at GreenPointe he said: “We have always had the philosophy that building goes hand in hand with lifestyle. We believe lifestyle master-planned communities have always been a greater asset. “