Nocatee is featured on today's front-page of The Florida-Times Union, Northeast Florida's most read daily newspaper, as well as The St. Augustine Record! Read the full St. Augustine Record's "Nocatee Sells a Lifestyle, Builders Sell the Homes" online article here >> http://bit.ly/17DBc4d.
Building blossoms as more come to call Nocatee home
By Roger Bull
The first thing you notice at Nocatee is the sheer size of it, stretching more than five miles from U.S. 1 to the Intracoastal waterway.
Those 22 square miles were typical undeveloped North Florida land when the project was first announced in late 1990s — pine and oak, pasture and swamp.
After years of meetings, plans, permits, even lawsuits and settlements, the first house was sold in 2007. But by the end of the next year, sales had only reached 60.
That’s five dozen homes on 14,000 acres.
But the corner has been turned. The huge development that straddles the Duval-St. Johns county line was the sixth best-selling community in the country for the first half of 2013, according to a report last month.
A little more than 2,000 families live there now, and it’s on pace to sell close to 900 homes this year.
“We had the right master plan,” said Rick Ray, president and CEO of The PARC Group, Nocatee’s developer. “It was well thought out. And to have this much land this close to the ocean, and to preserve this much.”
He’s talking about the fact that 60 percent of those 14,000 acres have been preserved as untouched and natural.
Phil Pierce, a Realtor with Keller Williams, said that three-quarters of the homes he’s sold so far this year have been in Nocatee. Part of the reason is that master plan; part of the reason is the amenities, including the water park.
Last week, Nocatee announced plans to expand the water park and add a competition pool, basketball courts, a community garden, and a kayak launch on the Intracoastal Waterway.
SCHOOLS A SELLING POINT
But Pierce pointed to another: St. Johns County, where 85 percent of the development lies.
“I think it’s St. Johns county as a whole,” Pierce said, “but particularly the schools. I deal with a lot of parents who feel like there are going to have to send their kids to private schools if they move to Jacksonville.”
The Florida Department of Education ranked St. Johns schools the best of the state’s 67 counties in 2011. Duval is 50th.
Dirk Schroeder, Realtor Century 21 and president of the St. Johns County Multiple Listing Service, talked about closeness to the beach, the water park and he called “the new car smell” that Nocatee has.
“It’s completely free from any negative influences around it,” Schroeder said.
But the first thing he mentioned were the schools.
“Folks who are working in Jacksonville and have children want to tap into our school system,” he said.
Nocatee isn’t the only development benefitting from that.
Walter O’Shea, managing director of Palencia, a community about eight miles south of Nocatee. That opened in 2001 and O’Shea said about 100 of the 1,500 lots are still for sale.
“Schools in St. Johns are a big part of the story,” he said. “Palencia Elementary opened last year within the community. All the kids are biking and walking to school. You see hundreds of bikes in the bike rack there.”
Nocatee has committed to donating land for nine schools, the first of which will open next year.
Pierce said that 90 percent of the homebuyers he works with are relocating from around the country, but Ray said that Nocatee buyers are about 50-50 from the area and elsewhere.
When Jeremy Nelson, his wife and three children moved down from Memphis, he talked to his new co-workers and the human resources department at Biomet Microfixation.
A few recommended Clay County, but most said St. Johns. Even though the company is near Jacksonville International Airport, no one recommended Jacksonville.
“We really wanted a community,” he said. “And we were really drawn to Nocatee, all the parks, the water park, the way it was laid out, the green space.”
Nocatee works like this: The developer sells lots to the 11 builders who operate there. The two gated communities, Coastal Oaks and Del Webb, have only one builder each. (Del Webb is for ages 55 and up, Coastal Oaks is the most expensive.) But the rest have multiple.
The builders build model homes, customers look at the homes and plans, and contract with a builder.
The way Ray explains it, Nocatee sells the lifestyle, the builders sell the homes.
Right now, there are 10 communities with Brookwood, the first in Duval County, opening soon. And Ray said that they’ll be opening seven new ones next year.
Prices start in the high $100,000s and can go up to $1 million in Coastal Oaks. The annual assessment for Nocatee’s amenities are $2,000. But each community has its own association fees, starting at about $40 a month and going up from there.
At Coastal Oaks and Del Webb — which have amenities of their own, including multiple pools, fitness centers, even a grand ballroom — the monthly fees are $136 and $150 respectively.
The total build-out for Nocatee, even with 60 percent of the land preserved, would be 12,000 homes.
Ray’s not making a prediction of when that will be.
“I understand that real estate is cyclical,” he said.
Pierce doesn’t think anything will slow down Nocatee’s growth.
“You get public schools, a new house, four miles to the beach,” he said.
When Nick Morrow and his family moved back to the area, he knew where he was going to look. He’d grown up in Julington Creek Plantation and went to Nease High School before going off to college. After six years in Maryland, he accepted a job as associate athletic director at the University of North Florida.
“We knew we were going to Northern St. Johns,” he said.
They looked at St. Johns Forest, Durbin Crossing, Julington Creek Plantation, but eventually chose Nocatee as much for the amenities as anything else.
“It’s golf cart friendly, which wasn’t on our wish list,” he said. “But now I’m looking forward to driving my daughter to school in a cart.”
Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296
Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2013-09-15/story/building-blossoms-more-come-call-nocatee-home#ixzz2f46lQUMk