PARRISH -- Neal Communities' ventures into Parrish are continuing with a project that would bring nearly 2,000 new homes, plus some office and commercial space, to vacant land along U.S. 301 North.
The developer/homebuilder is seeking to rezone a 1,200-acre piece of land west of U.S. 301 and north of Moccasin Wallow Road to build The Villages of Amazon South, which would include 1,999 residential units, plus the option for 40,000 square feet of commercial space and 20,000 square feet of office space.
Known as the Saltsman property, the land had been used for cattle grazing and now is vacant.
With online retailer Amazon building a 1-million-square-foot distribution center just to the north of Parrish in Ruskin across the Hillsborough County line, which is expected to create hundreds of new jobs, homebuilders like Neal could benefit.
"Our goal would be to serve both the active, retiree market as well as people drawn by employers, that's so important," said Leisa Weintraub, vice president of marketing for Neal Communities.
The reference to Amazon in the new community's name is "just a working name," she added.
The company has not yet decided if it will build the homes or bring in an outside builder, Weintraub said.
No price range has been determined for the homes yet, but "we feel that prices will be consistent with our other community, Forest Creek, in Parrish," Weintraub said. Homes there are priced from the mid-$100,000s.
In addition to Forest Creek, Neal has developed River's Reach on Rye Road in Parrish and plans to open its newest -- Silverleaf on U.S. 301 -- in the middle of 2014.
Neal Communities purchased the land for The Villages of Amazon South last spring through three of its
subsidiaries from City National Bank of Florida in a deal worth $8 million.
The proposed development would include 148 acres of wetlands and 25 acres of recreation areas, including a play field and a trail system that would connect it with some of the western neighborhoods, according to plans filed with the county. There would also be smaller pocket parks throughout the development.
Access to the Villages would be available at three spots along 97th Street East and three more on U.S. 301. The plans also take into account the expected widening of U.S. 301 to four lanes, a Florida Department of Transportation project coming by 2015, as well as the future extension of Fort Hamer Road, which would cut through the middle of the project.
Neal Communities proposes rolling out the project in three phases: 600 housing units by 2016, 800 more units by 2020, and the final 599 units, plus the option for commercial and office space, by 2023.
Ben Jordan, president of the Parrish Civic Association, said he's pleased with the prospect of commercial space being included in the project, but he'd like to see much business development in town.
"Forty thousand square feet of commercial is not a lot," Jordan said. "That's barely enough for a Publix. We need restaurants, we need commercial. It's been very hard to get any commercial development to come out into the village."
County planning staff provided its first round of comments about the request to Neal on Oct. 2 and has not heard back from the company with its responses, county spokesman Nick Azzara said. If the project requires something beyond administrative approval, it will go before the planning commission and later the county commission, he said.
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.