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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

worth reading In Florida, an Old Idea Revived

Since the onset of the Great Recession, the smart money has been saying that golf has lost its appeal among retirees. But it doesn’t appear that one of our nation’s biggest home builders has been listening.

Taylor Woodrow has decided to build an 18-hole golf course at a seniors-only community within Lakewood Ranch in Bradenton, Florida. The track, to be designed by Chris Wilczynski, will anchor a 400-acre, 800-house community that’s been tailored to the people Del Webb identified as “active adults.”

A decade ago, Taylor Woodrow’s announcement would hardly have qualified as news. Today, however, it’s an act of faith that’s worthy of notice.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune has put Taylor Woodrow’s plans in context. Here’s some of what the newspaper had to say:  

At a time when golf is waning in popularity and retiring baby boomers appear poised to take up other sports, builder Taylor Morrison plans to bet millions of dollars that a new golf course will draw home buyers to Manatee County. 

The builder’s plans for an 18-hole, championship golf course at its Esplanade community in Lakewood Ranch come as several Southwest Florida courses -- especially newer links with expensive clubhouses and other amenities -- have struggled amid the prolonged economic downturn. 

“For a long time now, builders have been hesitant about starting new projects, and with good reason -- there was too much unsold inventory,” said John Brady, founder and editor of TopRetirements.com, a website that ranks retirement communities. 

“The bloom has been off the rose for golf courses as well -- too many of them exist, and there’s declining interest in the game,” Brady said. “Many courses have closed or gone public, and while builders like Pulte and Del Webb have been building new communities with extensive amenities, they usually have not been with golf.” . . . 

For its part, the home builder maintains that the Great Recession has created a void that the Esplanade Golf & Country Club at Lakewood Ranch will fill. 

“There are fewer golf courses to play. We see that as an opportunity to meet a niche that there will be demand for,” said Cammie Longenecker, a Taylor Morrison vice president of sales and marketing. 

Active boomers -- part of the cohort of 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 -- will be the target market. 

“We do see a large percentage of our buyers will be near retirement age or will be retiring soon,” Longenecker said. . . . 

From a development perspective, a prominent Taylor Morrison competitor in Southwest Florida agrees that golf courses are once again in vogue. 

“Golf is back, especially in a bundled format,” said Pat Neal, a Lakewood Ranch-based developer, referring to buyers’ desire for communities that offer a variety of activities. 

 Neal said that six courses closed in the Sarasota-Manatee region during the recession, which has created an opportunity for builders. 

“There are still 78 million boomers who stopped purchasing during this housing crisis for six or seven years, and their biological clocks are ticking,” Neal said. “So we are full of customers.” . . . 

The Esplanade course will be the region’s first since Royal Lakes opened in Lakewood Ranch in early 2008, following a trio of courses -- at the Founders Club, the Concession, and a course for Ritz-Carlton Sarasota members and guests. Those three debuted during the real estate boom of the mid 2000s. . . . 

“No one has built a golf course that I know of in the past few years,” said Keith Pope, chief executive of Pope Golf of Sarasota, which will manage the new Taylor Morrison course. “It is all tied to home sales, and we are seeing an uptick in the housing market, so it makes sense.” . . . 

2 comments:

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