ChampionsGate News

Up to 1,882 homes will be built at ChampionsGate

Mark and MarcLennar Homes LLC has a $1 billion plan: to launch sales early next year for up to 1,882 new homes on 34 acres in the ChampionsGate community that borders Osceola and Polk counties.

The Miami-based homebuilder bought 22 acres from ChampionsGate developer Houston-based Rida Development Corp. for about $3 million and will close on another 12 acres next year.

Lennar will use the land for one of three new neighborhoods at its former Stoneybrook South community, which now is being rebranded as part of ChampionsGate. That land was approved for 3,654 homes, but to date about 1,200 have been built.

Lennar Homes previously was part owner of Stoneybrook South through a joint venture, South Development LLC. But the real estate bust in 2007 and the financial market collapse in 2008 led to the project being abandoned and hit with several construction liens in the following years.

Last spring, Lennar’s related Len-CG LLC took title to several parcels of land and Metheny said the issues have since been “cleaned up.”

Teaming with Lennar will extend ChampionsGate from Interstate 4 to U.S. Highway 27. The developments together at buildout will have a combined 5,790 homes, 54 holes of golf, an elementary school and park, as well as 248,000 square feet of office space, 426,000 square feet of retail and 2,864 hotel rooms.

“This is like a restarting of ChampionsGate,” whose sales were hurt by the Great Recession, said Marc Reicher, senior vice president of Rida Development. “ChampionsGate now has all the elements of a small city.”

Lennar Homes Division President Mark Metheny also plans to complete the half-built, 18-hole golf course at the former Stoneybrook South and make it a third golf course for ChampionsGate, which has 36 holes and a clubhouse.

Lennar expects to launch sales with prices starting at more than $200,000 early next year on three communities:

• The Country Club at ChampionsGate, with 600-800 single-family homes, villas and condos, and a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse with dining facilities, pools and a fitness center.

• The Retreat at ChampionsGate, with 600-700 single-family homes to be sold as short-term resort rentals, and a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse with resort pools and kids’ water park.

• The Vistas at ChampionsGate, with 382 upscale condos/townhomes/golf homes overlooking 54 holes of golf.

Incorporating those homes into ChampionsGate is a wise move, said Mark Vitner, managing director and senior economist with Wells Fargo Securities LLC. It’s in a good location, he said, which will make it one of the first developments to draw attention when things improve in suburban markets within the next couple of years.

Having job centers — the area is home to Orange Lake Resorts, the Encantada resort, Formosa Gardens and is near the town of Celebration — also makes it more viable for a housing comeback.

And ChampionsGate’s hotel, golf and retail development — would benefit residents or vacationers.

Vitner added that Lennar was wise to rebrand the project. “Perception of value is one of the big elements of a homebuying decision. Identity is very important, and you want something that still will have appeal years from now.”

Anjali FlukerSenior Staff Writer- Orlando Business Journal

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