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Taylor Morrison will look to the Esplanade at Lakewood Ranch for the design of a new community in Gulf Gate. Courtesy of Taylor Morrison.
Sarasota Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 5 years ago

Developer revives Gulf Gate community

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Cows that graze on a pasture tucked behind a Sarasota cemetery may soon have to find a new home to make way for a community planned for Gulf Gate.

The details haven’t been fully released, but Taylor Morrison Inc. recently announced plans for a new 77-acre development near the intersection of U.S. 41 and Clark Road, with model homes expected early next year for the proposed Esplanade by Siesta Key. The long-term vision for the property encompasses 247 home sites, surrounded by more than seven ponds, wetland preserves and pedestrian trails.

“There’s not a lot of new homes out there unless you buy a custom home,” said West Florida Division President Steve Kempton. And land available for infill development, particularly in that location, is scarce, he said.

Taylor Woodrow Homes bought the property between Constitution Boulevard and Stickney Point Road in 2005 to build more than 300 multi-family units. The firm, which has since merged with another firm to form Taylor Morrison, planned to finance part of that through a community development district.

Sarasota County commissioners approved the CDD in 2007 — just before the real-estate market crashed. A decreased demand for new homes forced the project into an early grave before construction could begin.

“We went back and moth-balled it,” Kempton said. According to Kempton, there was a fairly low cost to carry the land, so the company kept the vacant land instead of proceeding with the development.

The firm tweaked the original concept to include single-family homes to fit the current active market, which includes empty nesters and retirees. Kempton said the community’s proximity to golf courses, tennis courts and downtown makes it attractive to those consumers. And the firm plans to capitalize on Siesta Key’s “No. 1 Beach” ranking, because it is less than five miles away from the main public beach access.

Taylor Morrison submitted a permit for the subdivision in July, but Planning and Development staff asked for various corrections so the Esplanade complies with zoning regulations, according to the county permitting website.

The developer has about a year to re-submit the plans and is in talks with the Florida Department of Transportation about an entrance on Clark Road, said County Land Development Coordinator Mary Stephens. The firm applied for a two-foot reduction on the regulation requiring 22 feet of width of asphalt on roadways and stated that older and seasonal residents would take fewer trips than forecasted.

Taylor Morrison Marketing Manager Katy Walker said the new development draws influence from the Esplanade at Lakewood Ranch, which features the re-barreled roofs of the California-Tuscan style.

The firm will soon start on the final two phases at the Verona Reserve, a community in Venice. And in August, Taylor Morrison purchased about 400 acres east of the Lakewood Ranch community for expansion.

“It has certainly been busy,” Walker said.

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