The Naples of North Fort Myers
This is a story about Magnolia Landing in Southwest Florida.
To tell this story, I need to go all the way back to 1988. Heron’s Glen and Magnolia Landing didn’t exist when the developer of Del-Tura Country Club, Paul Kanavos in 1988 felt they had something special, a money maker. He wanted to duplicate Del Tura Country Club. Just like a fast food restaurant starts another fast food restaurant a few miles away. The reason, to make more money the old fashioned way, renting lots or concrete pads to home owners who owned RV’s mobile homes or manufactured homes.
Paul Kanavos (Del Tura Country Club) was thinking let’s start a new park, make it even bigger this time, much bigger. You see, north of Del Prado Blvd in North Fort Myers on US 41 is rather an eclectic group of developments. All of the communities south of the Charlotte County line to Del Prado Blvd are modular, manufactured or Recreational Vehicle home developments. They have names like Heritage Lakes, Carefree, Del Tura, Fountain View RV Park, Raintree RV Resort, Lake Fairways Country Club, Tara Woods, Sunseekers RV Park and Pine Lakes Country Club. So, all of these communities were either manufactured homes or recreational vehicle home site communities.
The business model was to have an income stream from renting lots or home sites. Manufactured Homes, Mobile Homes and Recreational Vehicles are not taxed in Florida as “Real Property.” (Unless you own the property under the home) So, it is believed, if you don’t pay real estate taxes your cost of living in Florida is low. But, you do have to pay lot rent! The homes or living units are relatively low priced, yes, the living is easy. But, most of the developers have a clause in the contract that raises the lot rents each and every year automatically. In most cases 3.5%.
So, back to Del Tura. Paul believed he had a great business model. They needed more land to start a new development and repeat their successful operation. They found and bought 1136 acres of land at a price of $2,650,000.00 dollars in 1988. The property was in Lee County on the east side of Tamiami Trail or US highway 41 at the Lee and Charlotte County line. Del Tura decided to call this new project Del Tura North Country Club. The place was big enough for 2,700 mobile homes or manufactured housing units to fit on the property. And why not, the Del Tura Country Club’s name and logo have a good reputation. However, for some reason, the name of the development was quickly changed to Del Vera Country Club. Which loosely translated into English means “Along the side of the road.”
The amount of land purchased was two times or more the size of the original Del Tura Country Club. The property was divided into two phases. Phase one and phase two. The master plan was to build and sell phase one first and then work on selling phase two.
The stars in this story or I might call them the suspects, are as follows. They have names like Del-Tura Country Club, Del Tura Development Company, Del Vera Limited Partnership, DelNorth Associates, Del Tura Plaza Associates, EarthMark, Coolidge, Taylor Woodrow, Morrison Homes, Taylor Morrison, Wimpey, Taylor Wimpey, Howard Lamberts Windham, Maxcy Development Group Holdings LLC., Lerner Real Estate Advisors, The Community Development District (CDD) managed by Rizzetta & Company, and the HOA is Terra Management Services out of Tampa. You might even slip in couple more home builders in like Aubuchon Homes and D.R. Horton later in the story.
When you think Southwest Florida, you think Palm trees, beaches, boating, golf, restaurants, bars, and warm balmy breezes running through your hair off the Gulf of Mexico. Now you’re talking about Southwest Florida, what might be some of the best winter weather in the United States. Some call Southwest Florida paradise. If you have a need to embrace this place for more than a few days or a couple of weeks, there are opinions. You could turn your attention to living here full-time, as I have, or if that’s not going to work for one reason or another, there’s another program called “Snow Birding.”
Frankly, there are some excellent places to live in Florida. After all, Florida is 500 miles long and 160 miles wide. The population of Florida is almost 19 million. Based on all the new and wider interstate roads being built it looks like Florida is a destination for more and more people who want to live and play here. Because as everyone knows, The Social Security Administration (Who sends those coveted monthly checks) said 10,000 baby boomers every day are turning 65 years old. But, let’s be honest, not all of these 10,000 a day retirees are going to leave homes up north and live in Southwest Florida. Although in the winter down here it can feel like it.
This story I’m about to tell is a little on the personal side. But, don’t fear, I’ll try and keep it short. Indianapolis is cold in the winter. (You already know where this is going, don’t you?) As each fall approached, I became weary of the coming winter. I wouldn’t have minded winter; if I hadn’t made those fantastic mid-winter trips right after Christmas to see my friends Jack and Martha in Tampa.
I met this couple in Indianapolis. I was working for a bank in the mortgage lending department, and my office space was being remodeled. I was told by someone in authority at the bank to use the President’s office. (He had just retired, and his office wasn’t being used.) The president’s old office was an intimidating room. You know, the kind of office space you would expect a bank president to have. On one end of the space, is a large round conference table with big comfortable executive chairs. On the other end of the office, I’m sitting at a large desk surrounded with couches, coffee and end tables and a liquor cabinet on one wall. The chamber came with a second story view of the outside. The windows ran the full length of the office. It was an impressive and important space, to say the least.
So, I settled in behind the president’s desk. The desk chair was another lavish appointment, big and lush. I must admit I looked in the drawers to see if anything was left behind of significance. With the door to the office left open, I could see foot traffic going up and down the hallway. I didn’t feel comfortable keeping the door closed, even though I was encouraged to do so. The other benefit, I wanted people to wonder if I have been elevated to a higher position in the bank. But after a couple of day’s everyone knew the score.
Except for our new employee, Jack. Jack was the new hire from Wisconsin. He was going to be the new and improved “Trust Officer” for the bank. We had all been waiting for him. We knew he was coming; we just didn’t know when. Finally, he had arrived. I could hear him walking down the hall as he was introducing himself to everyone he met. He approached my office door cautiously. He stood in the doorway, reverently and looked at me with great respect, as the presidential atmosphere of the office dictated.
“Excuse me, Sir, If I may, I’m new at the bank, and I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jack; I’m the new trust officer.”
Watching him standing half in and half out of the doorway to the office, I was thinking to myself, “Boy this guy is a real “suck-up.” So, I decided to play with him a little.
“Welcome aboard Jack, (With as much authority as I could muster in a lowered commanding voice. I also pronounced the word “Jack” with just a bit of a bite too.) come in my boy; we’ve been waiting for you, have a seat and tell me a little about yourself.” I leaned back in my executive high back chair and placed my elbows on the arms and touched my left and right fingertips together as I looked over my reading glasses.
Dutifully he entered the office, looking left and right at the space and finally sat on the edge of the chair in front of my desk. He was from Wisconsin; he was looking forward to being able to take the bank to a new plateau in bank deposits. He was honest and sincere, I believed him; he was here to do his best for the bank. But, I already knew the culture of this stodgy old backward thinking bank. He would find challenges and hurdles and resistance to change. I knew immediately he wouldn’t meet his own expectations. Finally, there was a lull in the conversation, and he wanted to know what I did for the bank.
“Mortgages,” I said.
He looked puzzled. I asked Jack if he wouldn’t mind closing the door to the office. He got up went over and closed the door and came back as if he were about to be anointed into an exclusive club or membership. When he sat back down, I hesitated for as long as I could. I told him that I was absolutely nobody.
“Jack, my boy, I’m one of the lowest positions in the bank. I’m using the retired president’s office till my crummy little cubicle is ready in the loan department. Sorry Jack, I’m not who you think I am.”
He sat back in the chair and crossed his leg. He placed his hand to his mouth, and I noticed a small smile creep across his lips.
“But, Jack, my man, I do have one important question for you. I’m dying to have a drink from the retired president’s private stock over there on the wall, care to join me? It’s a shame to let good liquor just sit there and not take advantage.”
The next half hour, two men bonded and we have been the best of friends now for 29 years.
Jack didn’t last long in Indianapolis. He realized this bank was only a stepping stone to other more productive and relevant places. Jack accepted a new position in Tampa. Before he left Indianapolis, he told me I must come to Tampa and pay him a visit. Who knew, this would be my own stepping stone. My stepping stone that would allow me to move to Southwest Florida.
JACK “THE NEW TRUST OFFICER” – DUNCAN
HOLIDAY VISIT IN TAMPA AFTER CHRISTMAS
THE HOT TUB – IN JANUARY
DINNER PARTY IN TAMPA WITH FRIENDS
TWO MEN WHO HAVE BEEN DRINKING “JUST A WEE BIT.”
IT WASN’T THAT FUNNY – BUT JACK ENJOYED THE JOKE.
JUST A LITTLE SCOTCH AND WARM WATER. – THE GIRLS SAID “NO PICTURES”.
Then, I was introduced to spring break vacations in Pompano Beach.
THE SMALL KITCHEN
THE LIVING AREA
THE LIVING AREA TO THE BALCONY
THE BEAUTIFUL BLUE WATER 8 FLOORS HIGH.
After years of vacationing in Pompano, I got very serious. I started asking myself, “Why can’t I live here? I mean to live here all the time?” I was sitting on the 8th floor of a time-share in Pompano Beach looking over the balcony at the Atlantic and saying to myself. “Why can’t I live here all the time, not just one week out of the year?” On the way back to Indianapolis, as the temperatures got cooler with each mile closer to Indy, I had to give this idea more serious thought. What’s holding me back from moving? It’s a tough question because we all know the answer. It’s me! Then the next question I had to ask myself. If I move away from Indianapolis, what will I miss?
Well, you can come up with your own list of things you might miss. I hear people tell me they would miss not seeing their children, or their grandchildren, activities, friends, and special places with memories. Am I simply afraid to move? Is that it? If it is, what am I afraid of? We all know a big part of any decision is the fear of the unknown. Or is it the fear of making a terrible mistake?
So, “I decided.” It was a straightforward decision or a mental action on my part. It wasn’t difficult to understand. The broad sweeping goal was, “I’m moving from cold to warm.”
The next step is, just where in Florida do I want to live. Okay, yes, I did consider other places besides Florida. Like Arizona, Texas, California, South Carolina. But the one note song playing through my head was “Cold to Warm.” If I’m going to move, it’s got to be warm in the winter.
My son, Scott, suggested I visit The Villages. The Villages is located north of Orlando and is located in the middle of the state. I guess by now they have at least 120,000 people living in The Villages. Who knows the latest number? It keeps growing every year by at least 2,000 new homes. I did the tour, in the little blue bus, and I was hooked; the fishing pole and line were pulling on my heart. But, I had time to think. I still had houses to sell in Indianapolis. I couldn’t make a move just yet. The Villages is very structured; they have rules for everything. Only one family is pulling the levers behind the luxurious velvet curtain in the Emerald City. The “Wizard” would be the Morse family. I have written about my trip to The Villages in other posts on this blog.
THE VILLAGES ONE HOUR TOUR BUS.
The other concerning factors for me was the question of sink-holes in The Villages. A nasty little problem that can wipe you out if your home gets a sink-hole in your front yard. See the Villages sink-hole story at the link below.
The Wizard standing behind the curtain in the Emerald City.
But, when I finally placed all the information on the table it was more than obvious to me. There are positives and negatives living in different parts of Florida; it came down to some basic questions and answers. Let’s see The Villages means living in the middle of the state, not close to the water. That was an automatic disqualifier for me. Sorry, The Villages is out of the running. Living in a northern part of the state, say the Panhandle was more than likely going to be chilly in the winter. No can do. I came to the following conclusion, and so would you. If I’m going to the expense of moving to Florida, it needs to be in a place where it’s warm in the winter. At this point in my grand plan, my new home in Florida had to be south of a line under Tampa. I decided I wanted to be on the west coast, not the east coast. Hurricanes seemed at least problematic on the Atlantic Side of Florida.
What would you do if your aging father who lives with you asked you this question? “Do we have a home to go to when this last home sells? And my answer was, “No, I don’t have a clue where we will live in Florida.” Dad was quick to say, “I don’t like your plan. Don’t you think you should find us a house, like now?”
The journey to “move to warm” is now one year and seven months into this process. Two homes are sold with one home left. The real estate market had not been kind to me. I had been holding out and hoping for better offers. But it wasn’t working out that way. With the last house on the market, we have less than 60-90 days from being homeless. Time to take the next step. And buy a home somewhere in Florida.
BUY A HOME
I decided to drop the top on my yellow Solstice Hot Rod and slide down the interstate to Southwest Florida. It took a couple of days to get there. I found a motel and started my search. I decided to start my search at the bottom of Southwest Florida. I looked at Marco Island and worked my way north. Marco Island is south of Naples, and I looked at everything all the way up to Port Charlotte, which is about 60 miles north. Yes, it’s was a lot of terra-firma to cover. Remember, I was not looking for housing on this trip. I was looking at commercial and business activity. If the stores on the main drag where old and not modern, It would give me a general feeling what I would find in the housing stock.
I quickly decided Marco Island and Naples was way too rich for my blood. On the other hand, Port Charlotte didn’t seem to have the pizzazz I thought I would find or want. About three days into my search I had pretty much realized I needed to focus my activities in and around Fort Myers and the Cape Coral area. So, the last two days, I looked up, down and sideways at Fort Myers and Cape Coral. I spent some time in Downtown Fort Myers and drove down 41 south slow and easy. It reminded me a lot of Indianapolis. I believe I had accomplished my goal. I would focus only on the Fort Myers and Cape Coral areas.
I decided to leave my hot rod in Southwest Florida on this trip. I found a storage facility and backed the car in the box and locked her up. After all, I’m moving to this general area soon, right? No need to drive several cars plus a moving van at the same time from Indy to Fort Myers. I booked a flight on Allegiant and was home in two hours and twelve minutes.
I really didn’t have a clue about where in Fort Myers to buy. I started looking at housing online in and around Fort Myers and the Cape Coral area. I noticed a really nice looking home for sale online. The price of the home was well under 100,000 dollars. I couldn’t take my eyes off the listing. I called the Realtor, and we talked.
“I’m calling about the home you have listed in Lehigh Acres.”
“It’s a three bedroom, two bath home. Is that what you’re looking for? Is this what you need?”
“Excuse me, before we go any further, I couldn’t help but notice the price of this home is well below other home prices the same size I’ve seen at online. Is there a reason?”
“Where are you calling from may I ask?”
“Have you heard of Lehigh Acers, or know anything about Lehigh Acres?”
“No, I know nothing about Lehigh Acres. I have my last home up for sale, and I think maybe I will need a home in 60-90 days, but I’m not sure. I’m in Indianapolis, Indiana and planning on living full time in Florida; I have picked the Fort Myers area to look for a home. What should I know about Lehigh Acres? Enlighten me, please.”
She told me she generally doesn’t work the Lehigh Areas area, and she is only providing listing services for this one home as a favor. She said, “The home is beautiful; it’s a lovely home. However, the owner has sold the home three times. On the day of the closing, the buyers look at the home and give it a final inspection. They then realize the home has been vandalized. Someone comes in the dark of night and steals the air conditioning, copper pipes, and the appliances.
“Really? Why not put a guard on the home?”
“If you owned the property are you willing to put a guard on the house when you leave for work or go out for dinner?”
“It is really that bad in Lehigh Acres?”
“Not everywhere in Lehigh, but the community has its problems.”
“Can I give you some friendly advice? If you are thinking of living in southwest Florida, you want to buy a home as close to the water as you can afford. Then the next rule. Don’t purchase a home on the east side of Interstate 75. If you can’t afford on the water, try to stay between 41 and 75. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
I told her, “No, not right now.” I explained to her I needed to rethink my search. She never asked my name or asked for my phone number. I had several other Realtors I called that didn’t have much patience with me either. I realized, if I wasn’t ready to buy “today,” they wanted nothing to do with me. Out of the blue, I ended up calling a Realtor by the name of Steven Saner. I asked him about one of his listings, and he gave me the information, just like everybody else. I told him that the home he had listed wouldn’t work for us. He also asked, “How soon do you need a home?” I explained maybe not for 30-60-90 days, I wasn’t sure. I assumed this phone conversation would be toast in a few minutes. Then he asked a couple more questions; I told him I had a 94-year-old father that would be living with me. He is in a wheelchair, and I would like tile floors for him to move effortlessly across the floor. The living area open would be very helpful. I would like to have his bedroom and bath on one end of the home, the master bed and master bath on the other. He asked my budget. Then he wanted to know where in Southwest Florida I wanted to live. I told Steven, The Fort Myers – Cape Coral area. There was a long pause. He explained he doesn’t generally work the Fort Myers area.
“Are you saying, you don’t want to help me find a home?”
“No, I’m not saying that at all. I just don’t know every community in that area. I want to be upfront about that. I generally focus on the Naples market.”
I listened as he was telling me he’s a Naples Realtor, he may not be my best choice for a Realtor. I also realized he had asked more questions about my situation in 15 minutes than all the other Realtors I had talked to combined. I asked him if he had access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) in Fort Myers.
He said, “Yes, of course, I do.”
I asked him if being 30-60-90 days out from being able to purchase a home was a problem for him. He answered by saying that gives him more time to acquaint himself with the Fort Myers area. You know, I just liked the way this guy talked. So, I asked him how many homes he sells a year. My wife and I are a team, and together we sell about 2 homes a month. In the summer, like right now, it’s a little slower with the snowbirds gone for the season. I simply have more time in the summer months. I decided I had found my man. There’s that simple action word again, “Decide.”
Steven and I talked on the phone a couple of times a week. I got to know a little about him, and he got to know a bit more about the flamboyant me. He would send listings through e-mail. I would look at the homes. Some I liked and some I would reject. About 30 days into email listings, we had a bite on the last home in Indianapolis. The couple needed financing to buy the home. We got our price on this home. It was estimated it would take about 30-45 before we would have a closing.
I called Steven in a panic. I told him, enough of the emails, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. I was getting on a plane, and I will be in Fort Myers Sunday afternoon, can you show me homes Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I need to make a decision this week.
I flew into Fort Myers and took a cab to the storage facility and unlocked door. The yellow Solstice Hot Rod looked like it was ready to roll. I was happy to see my car too.
I bailed into a motel/hotel over by the Interstate and decided to drive around the area again. My gut is churning; I am nervous. I don’t have a firm sale if the buyers can’t get financing. I’m forced at this point to buy a home 1,200 miles away from Indianapolis on faith. I’m wound up tighter than a twelve-day clock. My mind was playing Devils Advocate. Are you going to settle for a home because of time, or are you going to find something you will be proud of?
THE MORNING COOK AT THE HOTEL – MARIE
Monday morning on the way out of the motel/hotel I said good morning to Marie and gave her a hug. I told her I was a little concerned. I’m hopefully headed out this morning to buy a house. She took real good care of me the last time I was in town. “Now don’t you worry Honey, everything will be all right.”
I drove over to the restaurant where Steven, My Naples Realtor wanted to have a cup of coffee before we started. This would be the first time I had met him face to face. He has lots of homes in his hands to preview. We talked, and he explained the day ahead. Now it’s time to go looking for a home.
Steven said, “I found a beautiful community in North Fort Myers I want you to see first. I have three days of homes for you to look at so don’t worry if you don’t like these homes, there is a lot more to come.”
We entered a community in North Fort Myers called Magnolia Landing. The gate guard asked who we were and why were we wanted in the community. Wow, a gate guard. This is pretty fancy living. Not at all what I’m accustomed to in Indianapolis. We then pulled into the parking area of a model home presented by D. R. Horton. The model home is referred to as a Brookfield model. It’s gorgeous, beautiful and looks really expensive. The sales representative, Derrick Deans for D. R. Horton, is showing us around, and asks,
“How soon will you need a home?”
“Well, we have a possible buyer for our last home in Indianapolis. I’m not sure if it will go through, but I’m hopeful. Let’s say 30–60 days.”
“Oh my, I don’t have any homes that will be ready that soon. We have several homes under construction, but it will take longer than 60 days before they’re finished.”
At that point, a woman dressed in jeans and a work shirt and construction boots comes around the corner and tells Derrick, “Why don’t you show them lot #101?”
“Lot 101 is sold!” Derrick corrects her smartly.
“No, it’s not!” She said with authority. “They were here last night and backed out of the sale.”
I watched Derrick, the D. R. Horton sales guy, just stand there looking off into blank space. It appeared to me he had mentally left the planet for a few seconds. Was he in shock, processing the loss of a sale, a commission, and a client all at the same time perhaps? Then he seemed to come back to earth. He turned to me and said, “I have a home you’re just going to love.”
He was right. The home was on the Magnolia Landing golf course, with a big lake in the back of the house. It had the open floor plan that would be perfect for dad. The bedrooms were on opposite ends of the home. The floors were tile everywhere. I was blown away; the home was way more than I expected.
ENTRANCE TO MODEL HOME
I COULD USE THIS OFFICE SPACE
MODEL HOME BATH
MODEL HOME KITCHEN
MODEL HOME DINNING ROOM
THE FIRST HOME I LOOKED IN MAGNOLIA LANDING
BEAUTIFUL AND I LIKE THE OPEN FLOOR PLAN
FROM THE LANAI LOOKING INTO THE LIVING AREA AND KITCHEN
STEVEN, MY REALOR LOOKING AT THE LANAI
TWO CAR GARAGE.
STEVEN’S WIFE AND DERRICK DEANS THE H.R. HORTON SALES GUY
STEVEN J SANER – MY REALTOR – WHITE SANDS REALTY
The rest of the day we looked at a lot of different homes. Steven showed me mostly older home with weird extra bright colors on the walls. Traffic patterns noticeable in the carpet of empty rooms. I kept comparing these homes to the one I looked at in Magnolia Landing.
At the end of a very long day, I ended up in a restaurant with an adult beverage in my hand. I had all the information on the table in front of me of all the homes we had visited today. As I looked out at the canal with the boats parked next to the restaurant, I knew the first home I looked at was perfect. There was no sense wasting time. It was brand new; it was 2,002 square feet in size. It was perfect for dad. It was way more than I could have expected for myself. The people who backed out left a beautiful home behind just in time for me to show up on a Monday morning. Was it meant to be? Who knows? Sometimes doors close behind you, to allow you to open the doors in front of you. All anyone needs to do at a given point in time is simply walk through a new door. Yes, it was hard to admit. I looked out at the boats again and squirmed in my seat, I decided! “Move to warm Duncan you found your home,” I ordered another Scotch.
Now that I have been living in Magnolia Landing for almost three years, and by the way, my dad turned 98 years old this month, I’ve been poking around asking a lot of people about the history of Magnolia Landing just for fun. And here’s what I’ve found.
In 1988 a fellow by the name of Paul Kanavos owned a modular and manufactured housing community north of Del Prado Blvd on Highway 41 called Del Tura Country Club, a gated community with a very successful track record. (What I’m trying to say is, it makes a lot of money.) Del Tura Country Club made it through the period of high mortgage interest rates back in the early 1980’s. And was none the worst for wear. You may have forgotten during the early 80’s mortgage interest rates were as high at 17.48%. Yes, that was January of 1982. I was in the mortgage lending business in Indianapolis at the time and almost starved to death. (Well, almost.)
So, here we are in Southwest Florida, and Paul Kanavos owns the Del Tura Country Club which is performing very nicely, and the economy is looking considerably more robust.
So, Paul Kanavos decides he wants to duplicate Del Tura Country Club. Paul thinks, “Why don’t I create a new mobile home, manufactured housing development just like this one. But, he can’t do it without land. So, Paul went looking. North of Del Tura Country Club about a mile north he finds a parcel of land on the east side of US 41 at the Charlotte County line. In early 1988 Paul made an offer to purchase the raw land from E. C. Stern Enterprises Inc. It was estimated there was enough land in this purchase to build 2,700 home sites. He could see this being a major income producing property for years. A money maker indeed.
The formula for Del Tura Country Club is to rent the ground under the mobile or modular or a manufactured home. Something or somebody looked at numbers and changed the format for the land after the land was purchased.
Instead of leasing property with a house sitting on top of the ground, it was decided that Del Tura Country Club #2 was going to the sell the home sites (sell the land) along with a conventionally built home. Del Tura Country Club #2 would make money faster selling the lot for a sizable profit and building the home guaranteed addition profit, plus would help with cash flow other than the slower paced monthly rental income on each lot.
1988 – 1990
The price of the land in $2,650,000.00. Paul approaches the National Bank of Florida (NCNB). The bank says, “Paul you have been a good businessman with Del Tura Country Club, and we love you to death, but we are not lending any more than 50% on the property, take it or leave it.” Paul says, “I’ll take it.” So, he tells the bank just hold to my money I have one more person to talk with about the purchase of the property.
Paul then approaches the sellers. For me to buy the land here are the terms of my offer to buy your property. Ed and Frank Stern, Waukegan, Illinois sit and listen carefully. Paul says I’m willing to provide you half of the asking price in cash, (Remember the money is actually coming from NCNB) and the remaining $1,325,000.00; I need you to finance the purchase with what is called a Purchase Money Mortgage. In a nut shell, Paul is saying to Ed and Frank, I want to buy your property, here is 50% in cash, and I want you, the seller of the land to be my bank and make me a mortgage for the remaining amount I owe you. I will pay you in quarterly payments, or semi-yearly payments, what ever. So, Ed and Frank say “Why should I do a deal like that?”
Paul says “Ed – Frank you only pay Federal income tax on the income you receive in the year you receive the money. So, in 1988 you will pay Federal Income Tax on $1,325,000.00, and in 1989, you will pay Federal Income Tax on the remaining balance. Your taxes over two years will be lower. If you take it all at once, you will pay more in taxes.
Ed and Frank bought into the deal and agreed to be Pauls Bank. Ed and Frank receive 50% of their asking price up front, and the terms of the loan to Paul are 12% interest on the remaining balance of the note. And you Paul, have exactly one year to pay me off, Capiche?
So far, Paul Kanavos owns the 1136 acres of land and hasn’t got a dime in the deal. Paul then walked into the Naples Federal Savings Association. He told them he owned 1,136 acres of land in North Fort Myers and wanted to build a new gated community. Paul said “The market is ripe for new housing developments and I need money for infrastructure, a golf course, and capital to build homes. I need a line of credit to make this place a success.” The Naples Federal Saving Association said “How about a Balloon Mortgage with a variable interest rate of 10%. At the end of the five-year term, you owe us all the money in one large payment. With interest, the balance will be $8,550,000.00.
Paul Kanavos quickly changed Del Tura Two Country Club to Del Vera Country Club. Kanavos then hired Brown Collins Inc. a surveyor out of Fort Myers to survey the front portion of the property. (600 home sites) Paul Kanavos had created several companies before he started building. He called them, Del Tura Development Company, Del Vera Limited Partnership, and DELNORTH ASSOCIATES. There was another company in the wings called DEL TURA PLAZA ASSOCIATES. More about the Plaza later.
So, Brown Collins starts putting sticks in the ground with little red flags all over the property. By June of 1990, Bown and Collins hands Del Tura and the Lee County Recorders Office over 100 pages of survey information along with detailed drawings. It official, Del Vera Country Club is legal, start building and start selling homes.
1991 – The Del Vera Country Club started building homes in the first section in 1990. It gets a little confusing if I don’t tell you now, but keep this in mind. The 1,136-acre property was platted into 4 phases. One, Two Three and Four. The first two phases ended up being called Herons Glen. The third and fourth phase ended up being called Magnolia Landing. In the beginning, all the ground or land was going to be either Del Vera Country Club or Herons Glen Country Club. Sorry, I didn’t mean to pop your bubble on this story, but you need this information to keep the rest of the story straight. I know I do.
Okay, section one or as some people called it “the front” was platted for 600 home to be built and sold before they moved on to the next section (Phase 2) or the back, again 600 more homes. These Phases, one and two will become known at some point as Heron’s Glen. As you know, the plot plan called for 4 parts or 4 sections. As each section was finished, they would start with the next. The total number of lots in all 4 sections was plotted for 2,700 homes.
I was trying to find information on when the first homes were built in Del Vera Country Club. I looked at the Lee County Clerks database of records online and found the first deeds being recorded on January 15, 1991. My other approach was to go online looking for a home for sale in Del Vera or Herons Glen. Any one can find homes for sale that were built in Del Vera. So, while the first homes were more than likely sold in 1990, Del Tura Development had to build the house, and then close the transaction on the home and then record the deed at the Lee County Recorders Office. The point I want to make is, it didn’t take Del Tura Development, Del Vera Limited Partnership, or DELNORTH ASSOCIATES long to put up the first few homes in Del Vera Country Club. Then they changed the name of the Development again to Herons Glen. Homes were built in areas of the property they called Herons Glen. It had to be a leap of faith on the part of the first homeowners. The first homes built were located in the sections of Del Vera, and it will be a couple of years before we see Del Vera Country Club change its name entirely to Herons Glen.
With all the mobile home, modular home parks manufactured homes up and down US 41; there just had to be a need for medical complex close by to care for all of the retired living in North Fort Myers area. Paul was on a roll. What a great idea, provide a medical building and rent space to medical providers. This idea is a sure winner. Again Paul was looking for land, not a lot, just enough to put up a Medical Complex in a shopping center style format. He found it at Henderson road. The word on the street is that Publix is looking at the plans for the building and is going to put their store in the shopping center. This building is going to be bigger than first anticipated. With a Publix, the building has got to have certain requirements that a Publix needs to have to operate.
With an anchor tenant like Publix, it will be easy to borrow the money to build. Paul approaches The National Bank of Florida again and explains his vision and shows the tentative lease agreements to the bank. With Publix as a tenant, the bank buys into the idea. They decided to give him a mortgage and line of credit of $4,700,000.00 to build the shopping center. The mortgage is recorded at the Lee County Clerks Office on December 2, 1993.
What might be a normal process, and I’m not saying it is and I’m not saying it isn’t, the contractors want an iron clad guarantee that they are going to get paid for their work. So, a “Notice of Commencement” paper work is drawn and lists Kellogg & Kimsey, Inc Sarasota Florida and Slack Excavating Punta Gorda with USF&G giving the following guarantees. Kellogg &Kimsey, Inc are guaranteed to receive $2,666,690.00 and Slack Excavating, Punta Gorda is guaranteed to receive $265,095.00. What will we call this Shopping Center? Why “Del Tura Plaza” of course.
Most tenant agreements with shopping centers last about 20 years. So Publix is no different and has a lease 20 years out till 2013 or 2014. I found an article written By The NewsPress in 2011 about Publix leaving the Del Tura Plaza and moving south to Del Prado and US 41.
2011 – Bill Hammer of North Fort Myers and Eileen Lentz walk through the Publix parking lot in the Del Tura Plaza in North Fort Myers. The store is planning on moving to a new location, much to the chagrin of surrounding shops. As Publix leaves the Del Tura Plaza, nearby shops worry about lost sales
A Publix Supermarket in Del Tura Plaza in North Fort Myers is moving to a new center about a mile south. But the grocer’s move which has not been set could make it tough for other business owners in the plaza who rely on the volume of traffic it brings in to the shopping center, some tenants and real estate experts say.
Emma Kelly, co-owner of the Pak-N-Ship a few doors down from the Del Tura Publix, said about 50 percent of her customers stop by on their way in or out of shopping for groceries at Publix. “We feel as if the whole plaza will go down if they leave,” she said. “Everybody does business off of Publix,” Kelly told me she has already signed a lease to move into the new Publix shopping center once it’s built.
Ed Bonkowski, a commercial real estate adviser with Ed Bonkowski Inc. in Fort Myers, said when people visit a shopping center, they want to visit two or three places in the center. “It’s difficult for the ancillary tenants because they’re thriving on the cohesiveness of all the tenants to bring people into the shopping center,” he said. Publix has been the anchor tenant at Del Tura Plaza for 17 years and will be for a while longer, while the new shopping center, Shoppes at DelPrado, is built at the southeast corner of Del Prado Boulevard Extension and North Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). When the Del Prado Extension expansion went through just before and during the real estate boom, it helped spark new developments near the intersection such as Bella Vida. The shopping center is also near long-standing traditional retirement communities such as Tara Woods and Pine Lakes Country Club, and the upscale Heron’s Glen Golf and Country Club.
Jon Mott, director of real estate for developer Paradise Ventures, said the shopping center is a joint venture between his company and Toronto-based North American Development Group. The company plans to start site construction for the new center in August and is slated to complete the project for a June 2012 opening. Some businesses in the center plan on staying.
Tina Hawbaker, who is the office manager at Ronald E. Tornwall’s dentistry practice in the Del Tura Plaza, said she doesn’t believe Publix’s move will affect the medical businesses in the strip. “Patients like the convenience of closeness,” she said. “What’s the difference between staying here or being a mile down the road?” Although it may seem strange moving a Publix store a quick jaunt away to a spot that has a similar footprint, it isn’t that uncommon, Bonkowski said. Typically anchor tenants have 20-year leases and may leave a shopping center for a variety of reasons, he said. It could range from anchor tenants moving into areas where there are more “rooftops.”
(photos of the shopping del Tura shopping center.)
I have been told many times that Publix was paying the lease on the Del Tura Plaza store to prevent other groceries from coming in and competing with Publix. I now believe it is a simple as Publix had a 20-year lease and the lease was up in 2013 or 2014. Publix moved to the new store at Del Prado in their 17th year of the 20-year lease with Del Tura and was required to continue paying the rent until the end of the lease term.
1997 – BANKRUPTCY
Del Vera Country Club hits the wall. There is a recorded document that states February 6, 1997, Del Tura Development, Del Tura Plaza Associates, Del Vera Limited Partnership and DELNORTH ASSOCIATES, LTD were all listed as “Debtor” (They owe lots of money to everyone) in UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT – ORDER CONFIRMING AUCTION SALE. IN PARAGRAPH 2: – Under ORDERS AND ADJUDGES
It says the following:
Coolidge – Valencia Equities L.P. (“Coolidge”) was the sole and successful bidder and purchased Herons Glen with a credit bid of $11,200,000.00.
So, “Coolidge” (Developer and or Builder) did not get involved in Herons Glen until February 6 or February 24, 1997.
It looks like Paul Kanavos the owner of Del Tura Club Club got in over their head on this project. Apparently, it costs more to build a new development than they thought. Not to mention the Del Tura Plaza may have been a drain on finances. Or he simply bit off more than he could chew.
1998 – Name Change.
The Herons Glen Recreation District (the “District”) was officially established April 28, 1998, as an independent special district by Lee County Ordinance No. 98-08 and amended by Ordinance No. 98-18. These ordinances established a charter and created the Herons Glen Recreational District under Chapter 418, Part II, Florida Statutes. The purpose of the District is to finance, acquire, plan, improve, operate, maintain and manage recreational facilities within the District. (With in Herons Glen)
Let me put this in a language we can all understand. We, Del Vera/Herons Glen want 1,300 homeowners to send a check every quarter. Please write your check to the Herons Glen Recreational District for $487.00. We expect your personal check 4 times a year. Yes, that means $1,948 dollars a year from each homeowner. 1,300 homes come to a tidy $2,532,400.00. And don’t forget your HOA fees. Home Owners Association Fees are all most the same money. So, Herons Glen is operating a five million dollar a year operation. Now Herons Glen has some serious change in their pockets to do some serious business. But the HOA fees were kept low during the beginning stages of building, as the development needed to sell homes first and raise fees later to where they are today. Don’t feel bad; all developers do it.
2001 – Enter stage left or is that stage right? I guess it depends on your political persuasion. Our second actor involves EARTHMARK. Bloomberg online says Earthmark was incorporated in 2001. EarthMark apparently wanted a piece of the Del Vera/Herons Glen action. Or did Paul call EarthMark? I haven’t been able to put that piece of the puzzle together. I don’t think I will. Unless some one calls me and slips me the information, I don’t know about. Anyway, Bloomberg’s website writes in very flowery language, Earthmark Companies, LLC, is a real estate development company, it designs and constructs residential communities. It also builds a multi family and single-family residential communities. The company provides mitigation solutions to private developers and public service agencies. EarthMark Companies, LLC was incorporated in 2001 and is based in Fort Myers, Florida. Michael E. Rosen is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Ed Hill is President Chief Operating Officer, Phillip Rosen has no title on their website and sounds like a son to me, Dave Clark is Sales and Marketing for the company. EarthMark took a shot at building homes in Del Vera starting in 2001 or 2002.
2004 – EarthMark hires Christopher J. Lee, architects to draw plans for a Clubhouse. So, Del Vera/Herons Glen decides it needs a fabulous clubhouse, golf course, and amenities to attract people to live in the new Del Vera/Herons Glen County Club development. The Golf Club will be highlighted by an 18-hole championship course designed by Ron Garl in 1991.
2004 – The firm of CJL Architects was hired to draw the Herons Glen Clubhouse. By the way, CJL stands for Christopher J. Lee. EarthMark was the client, and Coolidge was brought in to build the 52,000 square foot two story Resort Recreational Country Club. On the Buildzoom website, Coolidge Fort Myers Realty LP acquired a permit on May 7, 2004, for the ability to place a Construction Trailer/Office/Shed as the Building Contractor under the project name of Herons Glen Unit #13. Cost? Permit paid $190.00.
At this point in time, The Herons Glen Clubhouse is currently in the Design and Construction documents Phase, the 2-story, 52,000 square foot resort club facility is scheduled to be completed in fall 2005. When finished this resort club will provide for multiple recreational activities (including golf, tennis, and swimming).
2004 – Hurricane CHARLEY came to town.
EarthMark/Coolidge at this stage (2004-2005) is starting to build homes in phase two Phase 2 as it was called then, is what we call Magnolia Landing today. With the Club House under construction in Herons Glen, it was necessary to build another Golf Club Country Club type building in Phase 2 to compliment the Gordon Lewis designed 18-hole golf course. And why not? That’s what people want.
With the first few homes being built in Magnolia Landing there was a clause in the contract that said, “Hey, you lucky homeowner in the very prestigious development of Magnolia Landing, the market is going crazy and it’s a sellers market and people are buying into our development as fast as we can build the houses, we need you to write us an additional check for $12,000 to own a part of the “amenities”which we promise we will build in Phase 2 / Magnolia Landing. Now keep in mind EarthMark/Coolidge was riding a title wave of business. In 1998 they created a Recreational District with quarterly dues in Herons Glen. So, why not push the envelope and require the money upfront instead of quarterly. And that check you write will be spent on paved and landscaped streets, sidewalks, resort style clubhouse, tennis courts, golf club and staffed fitness center, why there is even going to be a beauty salon. A little math here wouldn’t hurt, $12,000.00 times 30 new homeowners = $360,000.00.
2005 – May 09, 2005
I would call this date a pivotal moment in the life of Magnolia Landing. There was a sale of land recorded at the Lee County Recorders office for $52,500,000.00. This action would transfer the Magnolia Landing Property From Coolidge to Taylor Woodrow.
I also noticed an article by the Business Observer on May 12, 2005. No one seemed to know much about EarthMark/Coolidge and the article below is a testament of how EarthMark/Coolidge stayed below the radar.
Business Observer: Even in its home city, (Fort Myers) the company is a conundrum. Many Realtors and real estate insiders admit to knowing little to nothing about the business other than it developed half of Herons Glen golf community and then sold the remaining 900 acres to Taylor Woodrow for $70 million. EarthMark size guesses range from somewhere between larger than the typical company to smaller than Arvida, one of the largest developers in Florida. “We haven’t really heavily branded the name,” says Michael Rosen, EarthMark’s chief executive officer. “This is not really a business strategy per say. We just choose to focus on the properties themselves.” The company looks to accumulate large land holdings to develop residential developments around amenities.
What confuses me about the article is there is a recorded sale of $52,500,000 at the Lee County Recorders office. The article is saying 900 acres was sold to Taylor Woodrow for $70,000,000. Is this just a typo on the part of the reporter? Was their money under the table? Why would EarthMark’s Rosen say the sale to Taylor Woodrow was $70,000,000 when the recorder’s office shows the transaction at $52,500,000.00?
In talking with residents about Magnolia Landing, names of builders and developers get tossed around, and it gets a little confusing as to who is or was building and developing. So let’s take a look at the various builders and developers that were involved in building and developing Magnolia Landing. Keep in mind there are only three major players in the home building business in Magnolia Landing. They are Taylor Woodrow, Morrison, and Wimpey. These three major players “eat” all the other builder’s lunch. And then they turn on each other.
ENTER –TAYLOR WOODROW – MORRISON –
So, let’s start with Francis (Frank) Taylor. Frank Taylor is born near Glossop in Derbyshire in a small hamlet of Hatfield, on January 7, 1905. Hatfield is a small suburb on the North side of London, United Kingdom. At the age of 11, Frank was a busy boy; he was operating his father’s fruit business with ease and dexterity. The family for some reason moves north to Blackpool, 225 miles north of London on the west coast of England just north of Liverpool.
In 1921 at the ripe old age of 16 years, young Frank Taylor persuaded his father that he could build the family a home they could live in. Frank needed $400.00. With some money from his father and a loan from the local bank, Frank Taylor builds a pair of semi-detached houses, at 347 and 349 Central Drive, Blackpool, United Kingdom. When the homes are finished the Taylor family lives in one and Frank sells the other for $1,000.00.
During the twenties, Frank Taylor decides to “do it again” and build another home. His efforts were focused on providing low-cost, high-quality housing in the Lancashire area. Now get this, It was only after financing Frank Taylor’s growing housebuilding business for two years that the bank manager realized his client (Frank Taylor) was under legal age for conveying land, and something had to be fixed, and fixed right now. Uncle Jack was quickly asked to be involved in the business, which created a new name for the company. We now have the Taylor Woodrow brand. Jack Woodrow, the uncle, wasn’t really involved in the home building business at all. Jack Woodrow was lending his name to the paperwork and documents to make them legal.
In 1930, Frank Taylor moved back to London where Frank, (Taylor Woodrow) rapidly expanded the scale of its private home building – by the mid-1930s Taylor Woodrow was building at a rate of 1,200-1,500 houses a year. The company built over 1,000 homes at Grange Park in Hayes and set up new headquarters in Southhall.
In 1935, the various house building companies merged (The big fish eats the smaller fish) and floated the company on the London Storck Exchange as “Taylor Woodrow Estates.” (Frank Taylor is going to be the big fish.)
FRANK TAYLOR IS THIRD FROM THE LEFT
In 1936 Taylor Woodrow entered the Canadian construction market through the acquisition of Monarch Development Corporation, founded in 1917, one of Canada’s oldest, largest and most diversified real estate companies. Taylor Woodrow eats another competitor.
In 1937, Taylor Woodrow Construction was formed and, after a modest start, the company was soon engaged in defense work.
With the war in 1939, all private housing development stopped. For six years Taylor Woodrow built military camps, airfields, and factories. Notable contracts included terminal buildings at London Heathrow Airport and the Liver pool Metropolitan Cathedral.
Later Taylor Woodrow moves into West and South Africa and, in the 1950s, Taylor Woodrow expanded into Australia, and Canada (including housing activity) and, most important of all, the middle east.
In 1953 the company purchased a controlling interest in a newly established business, Monarch Mortgage and Investments Limited, which owned land, apartment complexes, stores, and houses in the Toronto area.
Between 1945 and 2001 Taylor Woodrow’s main operations were in general construction with Taylor Woodrow Homes being only a small part of the Taylor Woodrow Group.
Now, let’s look at the next big player. Morrison Homes was initially founded in Seattle in 1905 by C.G. Morrison and moved to northern California in 1946. The company built mostly first-time and mid-market home communities in Phoenix, Sacramento, Denver, and Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa, Austin and Huston, Texas. Morrison and Richardson Homes, another large builder became one company and then on July 6, 2007, Morrison Homes and Taylor Woodrow Inc. became Taylor-Morrison. They were big, massive; They became one of the world’s largest home building companies at that time.
George Wimpey Company was formed in 1880 and, based in Hammersmith, England and operated as a road surfacing contractor. The business was acquired by Godfrey Mitchell in 1919, and Mitchell refocused the company into construction and the home building business.
George Wimpey died in 1913 at the age of 58. His family put the business up for sale in 1919. Godfrey Way Mitchell bought the firm and decided to keep the Wimpey name. Sir Godfrey Mitchell is now the sole owner of the George Wimpey Company.
SIR GODFREY MITCHELL
Back in the beginning in 1919, Mitchell bought a fleet of steam rollers and accepted contracts for public and private road paving jobs. Much of the road work was for new housing estates, and Mitchell thought his company could make more money as a developer/builder than as a contractor. Testing this idea Mitchell put his money on the line and developed his first community called Greenford Park Estates in 1928.
By 1930, Wimpey was building around five hundred houses a year, rising to a peak of 1,370 in 1934. However, the private home building business came to a screeching halt with the war in 1939 and Wimpey then concentrated on defense work. Wimpey built 93 aerodromes, factories, and army camps, and finished the war as one of the country’s larger contractors.
After the war, Wimpey turned to the local market and by the early 1950s Wimpey was building 18,000 local authority houses a year. It was also expanding its building and civil engineering divisions, particularly overseas where it became one of the larger international contractors. By 1972 Wimpey was building private houses at an annual rate of 12,500.
Although Wimpey experienced rising profits in the 1970s, the company was spreading himself a little too thin thanks to its middle east activity. The group was beginning to lose its direction. It didn’t help that Godfrey Mitchell retired as Chairman in 1973, but he remained a director and a dominant figure until his eventual retirement from the Board in 1981, following his 90th birthday. Wimpey home building declined and, by the end of the 1980s, private housing sales were down to around 5,000 houses a year.
In March 2007, the company announced plans for a 6 billion dollar merger with Taylor Woodrow. George Wimpey will now be called Taylor Wimpey. The merger was effected by means of leaving the original Taylor Woodrow shareholders with 51% of the new Taylor Wimpey. Taylor Woodrow provided the new chairman and finance director, while the chief executive and the United Kingdom managing director came from Wimpey.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2005
Taylor Woodrow Group now owns Magnolia Landing and Mike Lane, then vice president of land development operations for Taylor Woodrow, which at the time had its North American headquarters in Bradenton said at a meeting on September 20, 2005.
“At Magnolia Landing in North Fort Myers, Taylor Woodrow will include access to the community’s various non-golf amenities, fitness center, tennis, pool, and dining with the cost of buying a home but offer golf membership as a separate product. We did this concept up in Orlando. It worked out real well,” Mike said “It’s giving them amenities without having to pay for golf, too. A lot of these people don’t even play golf.” Developers are quick to point out to us that golf remains a required amenity for many gated developments, but as new communities open, golf’s status in the community hierarchy may not be the unquestioned king.
“You’ve got a lot of retirees that come down, but they’re not going to write a big check,” said Dennis Hillier, a Boca Raton-based attorney with national law firm Greenberg Traurig who specializes in club membership programs. “The clubhouses are costing more than the golf course. Really what these developments are selling is a lifestyle.” “I don’t see us falling down,” Mike Lane, vice president of land development operations for Taylor Woodrow, said of the Southwest Florida’s golf course community growth. “The developers and builders, need more developable land,” Lewis said. “They can’t sell houses fast enough.”
Interview with Homeowner number one. This writer has talked to a lot of people who live in Magnolia Landing. Most didn’t feel comfortable being quoted. I have agreed to keep peoples names out of this story. By doing this, I get a little color from different eyes which were involved at the time.
Duncan: Can you talk about the $12,000 fee that was being charged when you bought your home in Magnolia Landing?
Home Owner: Early on, when EarthMark was still in control, there was a fee or an additional cost required when you signed the contract to purchase a home. It was tied somehow to the amenities that was being promised to be built in the near future. I think it was required as a part of the contract, like a buy in that was part of ownership. The fee was an additional $12,000 dollars on top of the piece of the lot, and the cost of the home. I mean, what are you going to do? I wanted to live here; you pay the money.
Eventually, when nothing was selling in here and everywhere else in the country, and building and development companies in here (Magnolia Landing) were changing ownership quickly, the $12,000.00 requirement was dropped.
It was evident to me at that point my “twelve large” was gone with the wind. There were several meetings with all of us who paid the enhancement/amenities fee, and the majority of the homeowners who paid the additional $12,000 fee decided they were going to have a meeting. They wanted to sue the developer, sue the builder, sue anyone to get our twelve grand back. A law firm was hired, and of course, they wanted their money up front too. They would go after the bad guys. It didn’t look promising. The attorney came back and wanted more money. A handful of the homeowners felt it was just throwing good money after bad. There was a small group of owners that either wanted their money or someone’s blood and wouldn’t be satisfied till they got one or the other. I’m thinking at the time, the energy and stress generated ended in some sort of small settlement. I couldn’t tell you if there was a resolution or even if there was a settlement. No one is talking because all who participated took a vow of silence. I listened to the possible outcomes, including dreams of damage awards. I attended some very focused discussions and came to the conclusion that everything in this suite was open to interpretation. I guess what I learned is attorneys always get paid first. No amenities were built, and there was a negative tone that seemed to remain, almost like one of those family secrets, the elephant in the room that is constantly under foot.
What happened eventually is some opted to cut their losses and moved out of Magnolia Landing. They looked for communities with amenities already in place and built before they gave their money to a builder or developer.
Duncan: Can you talk a little about the buying process.
Home Owner: 2005 – 2009. I remember driving out to what looked like scorched bare earth being called a Magnolia Landing home site with an enthusiastic sales person. I remember getting out of the vehicle and looking at 3 large cabbage palms standing lonely there in the sun all by themselves. They would be mine; I was told. The palms would be right behind the home. I was also told the lot had a premium water view to justify the enormous increase in the price of the lot. I looked to my left and to my right at the barren land and rows of empty building lots. It seemed to me all of the lots had the premium water view. But we are to believe what we are told to believe. Yes, the market in 2005 was crazy, and lot prices were going up $10,000 a month. I was pressured that I needed to make a decision quickly to take advantage of the current price. If I didn’t, it would cost me more next month and maybe more next week, if the lot was even still available.
My little bit of sandy earth reminded me of the Sudan, only drier. Back in air-conditioned comfort, I was rewarded with visions of arched entries, barrel-tiled roofs. The kitchen would have the finest granite countertops, tile floors, intricate wood detailing throughout.
Magnolia Landing was going to have paved, landscaped streets, sidewalks, resort style clubhouse, tennis courts, a swimming pool, golf club and a staffed fitness center, why there was even going to be a beauty salon.
In hindsight, I still don’t see it from where I stand!
ONLY THE GOLF CART BARN IS BUILT
THE VACANT LAND WAS WHERE ALL THE AMENITIES WERE TO BE BUILT – BROKEN PROMISE
You see, there was originally EarthMark, Wimpy (a British company with an unfortunate name), Taylor Wimpy, Taylor minus Wimpy, Taylor Morrison, followed by the Lawson years and Disneyesque groups of Chinese investors dining privately in the clubhouse. Eating food that didn’t look like anything that would come out of my kitchen. These were times even the sales staff smiled and waved as they carted prospects around in golf carts touting the comradery of the active, engaged, happy residents. I thought for sure one day I could hear the Leave it to Beaver theme song being played over the Magnolia Landing loudspeakers. Maybe not.
But when called upon, I performed my part as a happy homemaker. However, the 2nd time that loud low-flying helicopter flew over my screened Lanai, more than likely filled with overseas investors buzzing back and forth. I continued to sip my early morning coffee poolside in my Calvin Klein High-Neck Ombre Tie-Dyed One Piece Swimsuit. On their second pass, in the chopper, I could see the whites of their eyes, They had removed their Oscar De La Renta Metal-Acetate Aviator Sunglasses to get a better look. I gave them a better look all right. I gave them a big double bird salute! Not particularly ladylike is it? Nor neighborly either. But, no telling what they were trying to look at! It felt right to express myself finally. They went away and flew over someone else’s swimming pool I guess.
Now I talk with another homeowner.
2004 – 2007 – Interview with Homeowners number 2
Their story started in 2004. Our home owners lived 20 miles north of Magnolia Landing. They ran into four problems buying a home in Magnolia Landing. They already owned a home they had to sell. They didn’t know EarthMark was selling Magnolia Landing to Taylor Woodrow, which would cause a problem. They didn’t know Hurricane Charley was going to wipe them out. And because of the sale from EarthMark to Taylor Woodrow, there was a condition of the sale that Magnolia Landing and Herons Glen put up a fence between them. The fence would need to sit on Magnolia Landing land or several home sites at least. It would take property away from the original platted Magnolia Landing. The new fence with boundary lines established had to be recorded with the Lee County Tax Accessors office. The remaining lots and home sites on the street had to be assigned new lot numbers, and if you do new lot numbers, the remaining lots have got to have a new legal description.
The first step for Homeowner number two was to sell their home in Punta Gorda. No problem, the home is spick and span and ready to go on the market. It’s early 2004, and the real estate market is hot. There should be no problem selling the house.
Next, they realized they had better find a home to go to if we are going to sell theirs. They decide to take a look at Magnolia Landing and see what they offer. They like what they see. They come back several times. They make an offer on a property. They pick out their lot, and the process begins.
Again EarthMark/Coolidge requires a $12,000.00 check for amenities. The amenities will come and will be built later, just like Herons Glen, they say. Lot prices are going up all the time. The price of our lot was $94,000. That number is crossed out, and we bought the lot for $70,000. (See below line D. 2)
You will notice EarthMark/Coolidge is still using contracts with the Herons Glen’s Logo at the top of the document, selling Magnolia Landing. I assume business was good. Coolidge didn’t have time to draw new contracts for new sales in Magnolia Landing. Or, did they knew they were going to sell Magnolia Landing to Taylor Woodrow and didn’t want to go to the trouble or expense of making new sales contracts?
Hurricane Charley comes roaring into Punta Gorda. That beautiful home that was ready for the market is now in the middle of 150 Mile an hour winds called “Charley.” After 4 days of wind and rain, the roof is leaking, and the house is in need of major repairs. What a mess. Before they can sell the home in Punta Gorda has got to be repaired before it can be placed on the market.
The hurricane slowed all new home building activity in Heros Glen and Magnolia Landing. Labor and materials are diverted to Punta Gorda to help with the millions and millions of dollars damage. The timing of moving from Punta Gorda to Magnolia Landing couldn’t have been worse. Labor gets top dollar for their services in Punta Gorda. Builders and developers in and around North Fort Myers find them selves without reliable labor and builders and developers can only wait for things to get back to normal, so manual labor, carpenters, and craftsmen will come back and build homes.
2005 – TAYLOR WOODROW BUYS MAGNOLIA LANDING FROM COOLIDGE.
Between late 2004 and into early 2006, the transition takes place. Taylor Woodrow wants land and will pay dearly to buy land. Coolidge is no longer a player in Magnolia Landing. The fence is up protecting Herons Glen from the riff raff living in Magnolia Landing. The paperwork has cleared the Lee County Legal Staff. While this term is not used at all, by anyone, I will. Magnolia Landing now belongs to Taylor Woodrow Group. Which could include Morrison Builders before Morrison merged with Taylor Woodrow and became Taylor Morrison?
A letter is sent to the buyers early 2006, waiting for their homes to be built. Taylor Woodrow anticipates the first home loan closing to take place in late 2006. The letter goes on to say, “The building industry is experiencing delays due to robust demand for homes in southwest Florida. These demands, combined with damage to other areas from hurricanes, have burdened the workforce and make building cycle times an imperfect science.”
Taylor Woodrow also dialogs in the letter about almost being through the design process for the “Social Club House” which is anticipated for completion in late 2007. All residents will be a social member of the club with dining facilities, fitness, and planned spa. Taylor Woodrow drops EarthMark/Coolidge’s requirement for a $12,000 amenities fee. In the last sentence, The “Golf Club House” opening is anticipated for early 2007. So, Golf will be available by the beginning of 2007, the Social Club House by late 2007. There was no verbiage in the letter about tennis courts, a community pool, or 24,000 square feet of commercial buildings as originally promised.
Dear Reader, A big question here. If there were 30 home owners whom each wrote a check for $12,000 to either EarthMark or Coolidge, then that number is somewhere in the $360,000 range. Who kept it? Or who transferred the escrow account with all that money? Was there ever an escrow account started? Why was it never found by the attorney who was hired?
So, as you can see our homeowner number 2 had a long and expensive journey before they could move into Magnolia Landing. They finally sold their home and moved into Magnolia Landing at the end of 2007. They went to meetings about the lost amenities fees and wanted answers just like everyone else. But, the attorney who was hired came back and said it didn’t look like there would be a positive out come and suggested, “Let it go.” The attorney then said if you want me to continue I need another $1,000.00 from each of you for me to continue. Now, we have two schools of thought by the 30 home owners. One one side the “Let it go’s,” the others side, “Press on.” The “let it go” people thought it would be throwing good money after bad. The “Press on” people wanted their money back. The attorney said it would require another $1,000.00 from the 30 homeowners for him to continue. There were enough neighbors that decided to “let it go” that the additional money needed to hire the lawyer was a significant financial burdened on the ones who wanted to “press on.” This “all for one and one for all” unity pledge was broken. There is now animosity and hostility in Magnolia Landing for the first time. Some residents now found themselves in what you might call purgatory, waiting to be forgiven their sin of not writing a second check to the attorney. Others in Magnolia Landing were casting a judgmental eye at the “let it go” people.
At this point, I want to show you a graph. The graph is a picture of what is about to happen to the national housing market and in Southwest Florida. Can you say the “The housing crash is coming?”
If you notice the chart, (above) you can see the writing is the wall. The housing market is going down the sewer. It started without warning in early 2006 and continued a steady decline into the beginning of 2009. Taylor Woodrow decides to dump Magnolia Landing. They need to recapture as much of the $52,500,000.00 investment they spent to buy Magnolia Landing as possible. With the market in the tank, they look for a buyer any buyer with any amount of cash. In other words, “Make me an offer, please.”
2008 – WINDHAM BUYS MAGNOLIA LANDING – MAYBE.
On December 12, 2008, a deed-transfer was recorded at the Lee County Clerks office. The recorded deed tells the rest of the story, Taylor Woodrow Communities at Herons Glen, LLC transfers title to Windham/Magnolia Landing, LLC , a Michigan Company, for and in consideration the sum of $24,023,800.00. With the following exceptions: And the paperwork lists lot numbers not involved in the deed swap. The lots Windham is not buying are listed by lot number in the documents. https://or.leeclerk.org/OR/showdetails.aspx?cfn=2008000328012
HOWARD LAMBERT AND HIS SON STEPHEN
In talking with people in Magnolia Landing who were living here in 2008, it was understood by most that Windham (Howard Lambert and his son Stephen) only bought the golf course and the Club house. They did not buy any home sites. Lambert is active in China real estate investments as well as the United States markets, and it is believed that the 24 million to purchase the Club House and Golf Course was from a Chinese Investor. But this writer has not been able to find anything online as to whom the financial backer/s might be. It is understandable how people could assume it is a Chinese investor because of Howard Lambert has close relationships with China.
Windom then placed the following information on their web site:
Windham is the successor developer of Magnolia Landing Golf and Country Club, located in Southwest Florida. This stunning gated community covering 1000 acres is planned for more than 1400 residences including single family and multi-family and has received more than $150 Million Dollars of Land and Infrastructure investment to date. Amenities include more than 15,000 sq.ft. of buildings featuring a Country Club style clubhouse, and a state of the art stand alone Fitness Center and beautiful outdoor swimming pool. Windham has taken this community from near ruin to full prosperity through its continued investment and stewardship.
Now widely recognized as the top Golf Club Community in North Fort Myers, Magnolia Landing is similar in quality to the elite properties found in the Naples, Florida area. The Gordon Lewis designed 18-hole championship golf course is considered to be one of the best ever designed by this renowned golf course architect who also designed the Naples Country Club among his more than 80 courses.
2009 – 2010
D. R. Horton (Builder) buys lots from Windham/Magnolia Landing. (You know the Windham Company who doesn’t own anything in Magnolia Landing other than the Club House and Golf Course.
May 23, 2011 6:00 PM
The following are notes from a meeting with Brian Wasser, General Manager of Magnolia Landing who was being interviewed for a job by another Golf Club for employment. The notes below were found online when this writer did a general search of Magnolia Landings Golf Club.
When Magnolia Landing’s General Manager of the Golf Course and Club house Jim Whittemore, left Magnolia Landing in 2009 as the General Manager, Brian Wasser was assigned the duties of General Manager. (2009 was the bottom of the Housing bust.) Brian said Magnolia Landing Golf Club lost $500,000 in the year 2010. By May of 2012, the Magnolia Landing Golf Club was on track and making a profit of about $158,000. Brian created a membership program for residents of Magnolia for $2,500 including cart fees. Non-Residents memberships were priced at $2,100.00. During this period Magnolia Landing increased membership by 200 members and an average number of rounds of golf are 120 a day. Brain believes he can increase membership through internet tools. Brian passion is not the general manager, but he sees his talents as head golf professional. Brian enjoys playing golf and interacting with golfers in a positive way. Green fees at Magnolia Landing in 2012 is $40.00 which includes golf and lunch. Magnolia Landing was designed to be a private exclusive club course. When the economy went south, (2006-2009) the format of the golf course changed as well. The business model of the Magnolia Landing Golf Course revolves around 700 golf members at a time. Magnolia Landing homeowners were never required to join the club. Brian Wasser believes the pro shop is essential to complement the income of the golf course. In 2011 Brian Wasser compensation as head golf professional was $55,000 plus lesson income, health insurance, and phone allowance. Compensation as General Manager of Magnolia Landing Golf Club in 2011 Brain was paid $75,000. Brian said after a job review will make $100,000 a year and talked about changes in his health insurance coverage.
2013 – D.R. Horton
The Lee County Clerk had another interesting document that I happen to stumble across. It seemed that D.R. Horton (Home Builder) had additional interest in the empty lots in Magnolia Landing. After all, the economy appears to be coming out of the housing crisis, and people are moving to Florida and buying homes again. Southwest Florida is a better bet for a builder than the Midwest markets. So D.R. Horton is now the leading home builder in the United States by the number of homes it closes every year. And guess what I find.
I found a recorded Warranty Deed transfer from WINDHAM/MAGNOLIA LANDING, LLC, TO D.R. HORTON, INC. moving 62 lots for and in consideration of the sum of $1,213,500.00. To make this a little more personal my home is now sitting on one of the lots. So, I now know what D.R. Horton paid for my lot. I also found an article by Sean Roth, with The Business Observer, and he explains the purchase of Magnolia Landing real estate better than I.
D.R. Horton buys lots for expanded Magnolia Landings
BY: SEAN ROTH | RESEARCH EDITOR WITH THE BUSINESS OBSERVER
May 24, 2013
BUYER: D.R. Horton Inc. (principals: Paul Romanowski, Donald Tomnitz, Bill Wheat, Donald Horton, Thomas Montano, Stacey Dwyer, Kathleen Shippey and Ashley Dagley), Fort Myers
SELLER: Windham/Magnolia Landing LLC
PROPERTY: main address 3237 Magnolia Landing Lane, Fort Myers also known as lots 18-23, 35, 36, 47, 48, 50-54, 56-62, 66, 81, 85, 88, 95-103, 133, 134, 146-156, 209, 210, 216, 217, 231, 232, 252, 259, 263, 264, 267, 268, 282 and 283, Plat of Magnolia Landings, unit 1
PRICE: $1.21 million
ATTORNEY ON DEED: K. Michelle Jessell Esq., Boca Raton
PLANS, DESCRIPTION: Fort Worth-based National homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc. purchased 62 home lots in the Magnolia Landings community for $1.21 million.
The price equated to $19,556 per lot.
The purchase was part of the builder’s planned acquisition of 121 lots on the Fort Myers community. D.R. Horton has been building golf course villas in the community since 2009, according to Jessica Hansen, vice president of communications.
So, here is my question. If Herbert Lawson (Windham/Magnolia Landing) only bought the Golf Course and the Club House, how is he Windham/Magnolia landing LLC. able to deed Magnolia Landing property to D.R. Horton?
After I had moved into Magnolia Landing, I did attend my very first HOA (Home Owners Association), meeting held by Terra Management. Terra holds an annual HOA meeting in the Magnolia Landing Club House for homeowners who want to attend. They hold this meeting once a year. It was plain to me after my first experience with the Terra Management in December of 2014 that this meeting was only being held to comply with Florida law.
MAGNOLIA LANDING HOME OWNERS ATTENDING HOA MEETING
MAGNOLIA LANDING HOME OWNERS ATTENDING HOA MEETING.
THE FUTURE OF MAGNOLIA LANDING.
While it would be nice to say that Magnolia Landing is the Naples of North Fort Myers, that characterization would be a bit of a stretch. In 1988 the ground was purchased, and it was going to be a mobile home park, then a single family residential development, then the developer (Del Tura Development) went bankrupt. EarthMark, Coolidge, Taylor Woodrow, Morrison Homes, and then Windham have been trying to finish out what is currently called Magnolia Landing. Magnolia landing has gone belly-up once, faced Hurricane Charlie, suffered a bitter divorce with Herons Glen and endured the housing meltdown. It’s taken 29 years to get to this point.
Magnolia Landing is a lovely gated community with a 9-year-old Social Club House, a well-respected golf course, fitness center/pool, and about 312 homes currently. There is room for another 800 homes, give or take. D. R. Horton seems to be the only builder that has an interest in building in Magnolia Landing. The general housing market across the United States seems stable to strong at this point, and Southwest Florida certainly is getting its fair share of attention as a place to hunker-down in the winter.
So, what could go wrong now?
Herbert Lawson (Windham) and D.R. Horton seem to hold the fate of Magnolia Landing in their hands right now. D. R. Horton has an opinion on 200 lots at this time. The building of homes on those 200 Magnolia Landing home sites was to begin months ago. Why the delay? Well, a few miles down the road is a new D. R. Horton development called Entrada. In my humble opinion, D. R. Horton wants to focus on the 700 homes to be built in Entrada first. Why would they do that you ask? Follow the money.
Herbert Lawson (Windham/Magnolia Landing) wants more money for the lots in Magnolia Landing than D. R. Horton is paying to own lots in Entrada. D.R. Horton apparently can make more money building out Entrada than they can building homes on Magnolia Landing. Herbert Lawson has been selling lots to D. R. Horton as far back as 2009 for as little as $15,000.00 a lot, and houses blossomed like dandelions. But, the recorder’s office is showing D. R. Horton buying from Windham/Magnolia Landing in the last couple of years at $22,500.00 a lot.
I WROTE A STORY ABOUT ENTRADA HERE – http://www.byduncan.com/2017/06/19/entrada/
How long before Entrada will be finished and D. R. Horton can focus again on Magnolia Landing? If the housing market stays at its current level of activity, it could be 3-5 years to complete Entrada. What could happen in the next 3-5 years? How about another housing melt down, hurricane, or a developer going belly-up? Maybe, maybe not. You tell me.
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