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MARATHON, FL-Coral Gables-based the Peebles Corp. is developing an $80-million, 72-unit complex of waterfront villas in the Florida Keys.

R. Donahue Peebles tells GlobeSt.com that the company had been looking for more than a year for property to develop in the Keys. The Marathon site was selected, in part because it is close enough to Miami for weekend getaways. Also, the site is a five-minute drive away from the Marathon Airport which can accommodate commercial planes and private jets. “There are significant barriers to entry in the Keys, but if you can secure a site, it’s a good place to develop,” Peebles says.

Plans call for construction of multi-level private villas on a five-acre property on Bonefish Bay opening to the Atlantic Ocean with views to the Gulf of Mexico. Units will average 1,500 sf in size and have two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms and will be priced from $1.7 million to the mid- to upper-$2 millions. Among unit features are 10- to 12-foot ceilings and rooftop terraces with ocean views of the Atlantic and Gulf.

Complex amenities will include an infinity-edge pool, spa and fitness center, onsite restaurant/bar and yacht slips. Peebles is currently in discussions with five-star resort operators who will manage services at the project. Sales of the units will begin in fall 2006, but Peebles plans to restrict pre-sales of the units to 30% of the units. Construction is expected to begin early 2007 and the project is expected to be completed late 2008.

Peebles says the development will provide a higher level of amenities than typically found in the Keys, but will maintain the laid-back atmosphere the area is known for. “We’re taking the charm and upscale nature of the Keys and upscaling it,” Peebles says.

This is the company’s first project in the Keys. Other Peebles’ projects include the 107-unit Residences at the Bath Club Miami Beach, the Royal Palm Hotel on South Beach and the Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center in Washington, DC.

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