Don't Stop Believing (or Building) | John Burns Real Estate Consulting

Don’t Stop Believing (or Building)

Nocatee is a case study of going against conventional wisdom during a downturn—and reaping big rewards afterward. The master-planned community was the fifth best-selling community in the country in 2013, with 838 net sales, up 65% over 2012.

Confidence in the location. The 15,000-acre community located south of Jacksonville started building houses in 2006 as demand was about to crash. Yet even as the market deteriorated, the owners maintained faith that the location (near tony Ponte Vedra, good schools, and I-95) was destined to thrive in the future. They put their money down, building the infrastructure when there was little demand to merit it.

Defying the economy. While other masterplans stalled or shuttered during the recession, the PARC Group (owned by the Davis family, founders of the Winn-Dixie grocery chain) built a $30-million water park at Nocatee. In complete defiance of the economy, the colorful slides and towers rose above the palmetto and pines, a sign of faith that the community had a future.

Adjusting to reality. The owners knew that changes needed to be made from the original plan. They shrunk the size and scope of amenities, along with product and pricing, to foster sales. In 2011, they released Nocatee’s Greenleaf Village neighborhood to reach a more affordable family segment that was still buying new homes at the time with products initially targeting the sub-$250K price point. That helped kick-start demand and laid a foundation for the future move-up and luxury buyer market, as well as a Del Webb active adult community.

Landscaping matters. The owners continued to do all the small things that kept the community looking viable, even when sales were slow. The grass was kept cut, fresh flowers were always in bloom, and community events, such as movie nights, farmers markets, and bike races, were planned for fledgling residents.

The Nocatee developers showed that you can adapt to changing market conditions while also moving forward with a great long-term plan. The results speak for themselves: Nocatee is clearly the top-selling master-planned community in the Jacksonville market today, the 2nd best-selling in the state of Florida, and 5th best-selling nationally. One can only wonder how many other master-planned communities would have fared much better if the banks and equity partners had decided to continue investing.


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