Trending: Open communities with gated sections
One of St. Johns County’s newest master-planned communities is launching a gated neighborhood within the community, and it’s a trend that real estate insiders expect to continue.
Shearwater, a development located off County Road 210 that’s approved for 2,600 homes, just announced the opening of the Woodlands, a gated section of the community that will have more than 130 homes when built out.
The rest of the Shearwater neighborhoods that are currently open are not tucked behind private gates.
Andy Smith, regional development manager of Shearwater Developer Freehold Communities, said the separation of that small part of the community was simply a way to meet customer demands.
“The reason for us doing this gated section was to present another variety in our lineup,” Smith said. “One of the things we realized was there’s a buyer that wants to be behind the gate and still wants to be in a master-planned community with the high-level resort amenities.
“When we designed this phase back here, the land plan laid out such that it could be its own little exclusive oasis.”
Some of the development’s biggest and most expensive homes will be located in the Woodlands. D.S. Ware Homes and Drees Homes are building houses that start in the $400,000s and will be as large as 4,000 square feet.
Smith pointed out that a lot of buyers want the added privacy and security of a gated community. At the same time, he thinks the proximity to Shearwater’s amenities center provides the right balance of being part of the community but with more security.
At some gated communities, Smith said, people can feel isolated. But the Woodlands is a short bike ride from the pool and clubhouse where many social events take place in Shearwater. And by adding the Woodlands to the offerings, Shearwater has become that much more marketable.
“We really just let the buyer tell us what they want,” Smith said. “It’s a very healthy mix of people wanting to be in gated neighborhood and not wanting to be in a gated neighborhood.”
Ann King, broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty office in North Florida, said it’s very important for developers to offer the option of gated neighborhoods. She said some clients simply will not consider developments without that component.
“Some people say they have to have a gated community and other people don’t want anything to do with a gated community, so it is definitely a strong preference,” King said. “I think even within a community when there’s a separate section that is gated, that is appealing to people.”
Seeing Shearwater and other developments add gated neighborhoods is good for the county, King said. “If we didn’t have that option, I think we would lose a lot of sales,” she said. “We need that diversity.”
Gated neighborhoods are not a priority for every buyer, but some in the real estate industry say it’s still very important to many buyers.
ICI Homes North Florida division president Don Wilford said gated communities are still a big part of his company’s business. In St. Johns County, ICI is selling homes in a gated portion of Julington Creek called Magnolia Preserve and also in gated portions of Nocatee.
Wilford said another example of ICI’s commitment to serving those who desire gated communities is Tamaya in Jacksonville, which is an entirely gated community that will eventually have about 1,000 homes.
“I look for them to stay around forever,” he said. “It’s an amenity people want.”
Wilford, who lives in a gated neighborhood himself, said the added safety of such a community is a huge draw. Not all homebuyers want to deal with the added costs associated with having a gate but Wilford said it is important to a lot of people.
“In my opinion, that would be the No. 1 request,” Wilford said. “People feel secure. I live in one. I feel secure.”
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