ORLANDO-Two big names in the shelter development industry are banking on Florida’s rising population trend to continue and are buying land in big chunks for planned new residential communities in 2005 and 2006.

Arizona-based Del Webb Corp., a subsidiary of Michigan-based Pulte Homes, has contracted to purchase an estimated 200 acres at the 1,200-acre, mixed-use ChampionsGate development in southwest Osceola County. Webb plans to develop a $200-million, 700-home community of condominiums, carriage homes and townhomes not far from the Walt Disney World attraction.

The ChampionsGate land price wasn’t disclosed. But area industrial brokers who have done deals in that submarket tell GlobeSt.com the effective price will probably be around $200,000 per acre or about $4.59 per sf, making it an estimated $40-million deal. That would also make it the largest land transaction this year in Central Florida, according to several local brokerage houses who monitor land sales monthly.

DR Horton Homes of Orlando is buying 156 acres in suburban Lake Mary from frozen food entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci. The $22-million price tag equates to $141,025 per acre or about $3.24 per sf.

Area brokers tell GlobeSt.com the $3.24 price per sf is “better than fair market value” because the tract at Rinehart Road and Lake Mary Boulevard is “directly in the path of imminent growth,” a Lake Mary broker who is familiar with the dirt and the submarket tells GlobeSt.com.

Frank Dever, a broker at Stirling International Realty in suburban Heathrow, tells GlobeSt.com Horton plans to allocate 12 of the 156 acres for retail; 95 acres for residential; and five acres for office. The remaining 44 acres will likely be reserved for green space, parks and infrastructure required by the county, according to brokers intimate with the deal.

Dever says the 156-acre deal went for $3.24 per sf because large tracts generally get a break on price from the seller. “Smaller parcels go for higher per-sf prices,” he tells GlobeSt.com. The land was on the market from January 2003 to April 2003 but the deal took 18 months to close after the contract was signed, Dever says. The contract was signed in April 2003 and the deal closed this month.

In a separate transaction, Horton bought 16 acres on Commerce Center Boulevard in St. Cloud, FL for $1.1 million or $68,750 per acre. At $1.58 per sf, Osceola County land brokers tell GlobeSt.com Horton “got a good deal” from the sellers, Schoolfield Properties Inc. of St. Cloud and developer Wayne Schoolfield, acting as trustee. Horton plans a townhome development on the site.

Roger Soderstrom of Stirling Realty worked with Dever in negotiating for Paulucci in the 156-acre DR Horton deal. Del Wood, also of Stirling Realty, represented Horton.

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