PERICO ISLAND -- A waterside community that has been selling steadily for the past few years is about to see another building boom that will bring some of Bradenton's tallest buildings and a new marina to the shoreline.
Last week, Canadian builder Minto Homes purchased 35 more acres on Perico Island for $4.7 million to expand its 4-year-old Harbour Isle development. The purchase opens space for 100 housing units, according to the company. The area is also designated for several new 12-story multifamily residences.
The land buy comes as Minto is in the early construction of the community's main amenity, a 23,000-square-foot beach club that will feature a pool, kayak launch, workout facilities and a bar and lounge. It has also begun designing a marina that could feature more than 60 slips, a restaurant and up to 30,000 square feet of retail. Construction is expected to begin next year.
Mike Belmont, Minto's president of Florida operations, said the growth at Harbour Isle is driven by strong demand for new homes. The company has lodged more than 200 sales in a community planned to have 686 homes on about 220 acres at build-out. It's a sales level at which company officials feel comfortable starting the more ambitious phases of the project.
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"Over the past few years, we focused on opening the neighborhoods, neighborhood facilities and design and planning for the beach club," he said. "We will now focus our efforts on the next phase of the property, which is the marina."
The construction projects have been a long time in the making. In 2005, paper company St. Joe filed plans to build its Seven Shores development on the Perico acreage, but sold the land to Minto in 2007 for $8 million when the real estate market collapsed. Minto also spent $2 million to buy property for the marina.
The company's most recent purchase gives it near complete control of the northwest shores of Perico Island. According to Manatee County land records, Minto bought the acreage on Oct. 20 from Hayden Lane 1 LTD, a company controlled by Whiting Preston of Manatee Fruit Farms. Minto bought another 14 acres from Preston a year ago, paying $3.8 million.
Lakewood Ranch homebuilder Pat Neal is the only other landowner with property on the shores of Anna Maria Sound at Harbour Isle. He owns and plans to build several homes on about 40 shoreline acres he owns at the western edge of Minto's Perico land holdings.
For some Harbour Isle residents, the marina in particular has been on the back burner too long. Howie Drourr and his wife bought into the community in early 2012. At the time, he said, Minto salespeople told the couple that marina construction was to begin later that year. That was good news for the Drourrs, since they had a boat they wanted to anchor close to home.
Since then, Drourr has received several notices that marina construction would be delayed. Belmont's announcement, he said, is good news.
"It's been a disappointment that it hasn't been done sooner," Drourr said.
Belmont said Minto is building the marina as a business entity that is separate from Harbour Isle. However, its slips and other services will be available to Harbour Isle residents.
Construction still not finished
Much construction remains before Harbour Isle is complete. Minto has nearly finished its two-phase Mangrove Walk neighborhood on the east side of the property, and this month began moving residents into the first completed homes in its Edgewater Walk neighborhood to the west. The two areas are separated by a 38-acre lake running down the middle of the property.
Craig Settlage, vice president of the Mangrove Walk Homeowners Association, said residents in the near-complete portion of Harbour Isle want to bring a close to construction in their neighborhood, but are still negotiating warranty work with Minto. He said big issues over the past few years have included poor drinking water quality and excess noise transmission between first- and second-floor living units. Some homes have also had issues with water intrusion.
The homeowners association has commissioned an engineering study on the existing occupied homes, the results of which it expects to get next week. Settlage said homeowners are motivated to work with Minto to get any construction issues fixed.
"Right now, the residents who are here are really focused on finishing the work in these two developments," he said. Belmont acknowledged many of the warranty issues in a September 2013 letter to Harbour Isle residents. He cited a labor shortage as contributing to the "few homes with fit and finish issues."
Those issues aside, Settlage said residents are looking forward to the completion of the beach club and having a marina within walking distance. Residents now have access to two smaller neighborhood recreation amenities that include two pools and a boat launch.
Minto has not set a date to begin construction of the midrise towers. Brady Woods, the development services and zoning manager for the city of Bradenton, said construction of the towers was approved in 2005 when the development was owned by St. Joe. He said the city has not yet been asked to issue building permits for the structures.
Minto plans to finish its new beach club in September 2015.
Homes in Harbour Isle range in size from 1,621 square feet to 2,960 square feet. Pricing starts in the $400,000 range. Some models sell for more than $900,000.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.