Pulte to Invest $20 Million in Ave Maria
Pulte Homes is betting that its Del Webb brand has the spark that can ignite real estate sales in the town of Ave Maria. The company, which is the primary homebuilder in Ave Maria, has announced it will be investing $20 million over the next few years to build a 36,000-square-foot amenities center and a new model home park, as well as to market the community nationally.
Published on Wednesday, 24 March 2010 17:39
Ryan Marshall, Pulte's president for south Florida (right, addressing a recent residents' meeting) says that his company believes that its greatest opportunity in Ave Maria for the next few years is to market primarily to the "active adult" market to which Del Webb appeals. That part of the market, he said, has been much more resilient during the downturn in the housing market.
Construction on the amenities center will start later this year and its scheduled opening is early 2012. The company also will build a model park this year for Del Webb that will showcase eight new home models ranging in size from 1,300 to 2,600 square feet.
Pulte's plans for Del Webb will have an impact on the make-up of the town of Ave Maria in two significant ways.
First, Del Webb's homeowner bylaws will be changed to make it an "over 55" community, where at least one member of a household must be over the age of 55 and no full-time residents can be under the age of 19. Current homeowners in Del Webb will be exempt from the age restrictions, and they would be able to sell to buyers who also would be exempt but the next buyers of those homes would be subject to the restrictions. Most current Del Webb residents already meet the age criteria but there are a few families with young children living there.
Second, the Bellera Walk community, across Ave Maria Blvd. from Del Webb, would either be incorporated into Del Webb or its development would be capped at about 150 homes, with the balance of the planned homesites - about 1,650 - becoming part of Del Webb. The existing 32 homeowners in Bellera Walk have until late this year to decide whether they would like to be part of Del Webb or remain as a small gated community - the only gated section of the town of Ave Maria.
"When we planned this development in 2003," Mr. Marshall said, "we had expected that our other two communities in Naples similar to Bellera Walk would be sold out by now. That hasn't happened."
The original build-out plans for Ave Maria called for about 2,000 residences in Del Webb and 1,800 in Bellera Walk - in total, about 35 percent of the 11,000 homes planned for Ave Maria and about half of the 7,000 that are to be built by Pulte, Mr. Marshall said.
Based on interviews The Ave Herald conducted with a number of residents of both communities, reaction appears to be generally positive toward the investment by Pulte and the prospect for growth in the town overall. Several residents, however, expressed concern that the age restrictions could have an effect on the general character of the town.
"We believe the best thing for the town is for more people to move here," Mr. Marshall said, "and this is how we think that will happen. Activity breeds activity, which will be good for all the residents and the businesses in Ave Maria."
Pulte is continuing to sell homes in its three other neighborhoods in Ave Maria, Hampton Village, Emerson Park and Middlebrooke. It is reviewing designs for new types of single-family homes and has prepared land for a large model park, but Mr. Marshall said that further new development there is not in the company's immediate plans. "The priority right now is Del Webb."
As part of Pulte's marketing campaign for Del Webb the company is branding the community as "Del Webb of Naples," although it remains in the town of Ave Maria. Del Webb communities are often named for nearby cities with recognizable names, such as Del Webb Orlando, which is almost 40 miles from Orlando, and Del Webb Houston, located 35 miles from the Texas city.
In national marketing for communities like Del Webb, Mr. Marshall said, "Naples has great appeal."