Special Reports

1,500 homes proposed for northern Manatee County

PARRISH - A Palm Beach philanthropist's wife and a local home builder are proposing almost 1,500 homes, including workforce housing, at the northwest corner of U.S. 301 and Buckeye Road.

The proposed Arbor Park project would include 1,484 homes, including 168 units earmarked as workforce housing, according to preliminary plans submitted to Manatee County. Plans also include 150,000 square feet of commercial space and 30,000 square feet of office space on 586 acres now used for grazing.

Behind the project: a Medallion Homes-led partnership and Caren Heller Barness, a member of the well-known Heller family of Florida agriculture and wife of philanthropist and entrepreneur Amnon Barness, who founded Handy Dan Home Improvement, a forerunner of Home Depot.

Carlos Beruff, Medallion Homes' president, declined to comment on the proposal Wednesday because it's in the review process.

Barness said her involvement in the project is limited. Public records show she sold a 483-acre portion of the property to the Medallion partnership, which includes a Cleveland-based land developer, for almost $18.4 million last year while retaining the rest.

According to the plans submitted, the project would be built in two phases: 800 homes first on the property's southern portion, followed by the remaining 684 homes plus the commercial and office space.

Four types of single-family homes, ranging from 1,500 square feet to 3,000 square feet, are proposed. Another 193 townhomes and 158 row houses, in the 1,500- to 2,000-square-foot range, also are planned.

The workforce housing units either would be townhouses or multifamily flats of 1,000 to 1,300 square feet each, according to the plans. Those units would range in price from $185,000 to $201,500, within the county's definition of workforce housing.

In preliminary reviews, county planners have cited concerns about the project's timing, location and availability of jobs, public transportation and other services for workers living there. No public hearing on the proposal has been set.