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Manatee-Sarasota
Business Observer Friday, May 26, 2017 1 year ago

Cottage industry

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Developer Marshall Gobuty says his plans for a new development could spark a shift in homebuilding, to smaller, more efficient properties.
by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

Every night, someone cleans the roads at Mirabella.

The Manatee County neighborhood is still under construction, but dozens of homeowners have already moved in. About 55 homes are still to be sold in the 160-home community, which caters to the 55 and up demographic.

The roads are kept clean for the homeowners and potential buyers. It's an active construction site, but Mirabella developer Marshall Gobuty wants it to look as tidy as possible, which also means keeping the areas around Dumpsters free of debris and making small paint touchups on the exterior of homes.

The same obsessive attention to detail is going into Gobuty's next development: Hunters Point Resort and Marina in Cortez, a historic fishing village in Manatee County west of Bradenton.

The development plans include 148 cottages and 49 boat slips. Of the cottages, 62 will be hotel rooms, owned by homeowners. In a couple months, Gobuty says, work will start on cottage prototypes. McDougal Architects of Chelsea, Mass., will design the cottages, led by Beth McDougal. She received her master's in architecture from the University of Florida, where she studied the design of Florida cracker-style homes.

“This isn't a publicity time, it's a get-it-right time,” Gobuty says. “We have the idea, the look. Now it's, 'How can we make it more efficient?'”

Gobuty's aiming for zero-energy at Hunters Point, with cottages producing the same amount of energy as each one consumes. Gobuty would even like homeowners to sell energy back to power utility Florida Power & Light when they're out of town and producing extra energy.

Gobuty is no stranger to energy efficiency. His Mirabella community achieved the highest level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The community's LEED Platinum certification means it received third-party verification of its resource efficiency. Gobuty wants LEED certification for Hunters Point, too.

He's also working with a solar energy think tank, which he says will give his energy ambitions for Hunters Point strong credibility. “So much solar technology has been developed since Mirabella,” he says.

The other half of the Hunters Point concept is to stay true to the historic cracker cottages that dot the area. “The design of the cottages will be consistent with what Cortez was founded on,” Gobuty says. “We went and shot hundreds of photos of cracker buildings in Cortez and studied photos in books to duplicate them.”

The cracker-cottage concept goes back to Peter and Eva Thurell, the previous property owners. Gobuty says the Thurells bought 50 cracker cottages and moved them to the property. But they ran into difficulty when they couldn't figure out a way to get the houses above the flood zone. The houses have since been removed.

Gobuty read about the Thurells' idea and decided he wanted to pursue the concept himself for the property. “It was a no-brainer,” he says.

Gobuty bought the Hunters Point property for $10 million in early 2016 with a business partner who is no longer involved. (Gobuty and his previous partners pursued a possible luxury RV project at the site.) Gobuty now has behind-the-scenes investors from Sarasota and Bradenton for the project.

The cottages at Hunters Point will be priced around $250,000. They'll be 400 to 500 square feet under air, with more living space outside than inside. Gobuty says the cottages' total size will be 1,400 square feet. “It's a size people can afford and are happy with,” he says.

Hunters Point now hinges on Manatee County approvals. Outreach to the community will begin soon. “It's important to have the community on board,” Gobuty says.

Gobuty says the development will be a test, of sorts. He could use the same concept for other locations and projects. “Hunters Point could be the beginning of a homebuilding revolution,” he says. “I think this product — Hunters Point and this cottage — could really change home buying.”

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