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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 11 months ago

'Perfect Concoction'

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One homebuilder, with aspirations to stand out in a crowded market, sings a new tune. Will partnering with Jimmy Buffet's brand machine lead to fins of glory?
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

There's probably no one more synonymous with casual, coastal living than Jimmy Buffett. So it was a no-brainer when Tampa-based Minto Communities USA, one of the leading homebuilders on Florida's Gulf Coast with a presence statewide since 1978, got the chance to partner with Buffett's Margaritaville brand.

“We all agreed pretty quickly that this was a great opportunity for both of our companies,” says William Bullock, Minto Communities senior vice president. “We bring the development and homebuilding expertise. They bring everything that is Margaritaville to the table. Put those two together, then add the third ingredient, which is location, and we call it the perfect concoction.”

Minto Communities USA, a unit of Ottawa, Canada-based Minto Group Inc., first hooked up with Margaritaville after buying land in Daytona Beach from Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. Margaritaville was already working on a restaurant there, and Consolidated owned that property as well. Consolidated connected the two companies because both were interested in building active-adult communities.

That led to the entities' first partnership and project together, Latitude Margaritaville in Daytona Beach. The sales center recently opened for a planned 55-and-over community there, which will feature 3,000 homes (with potential to expand up to 6,900), a town center and bandshell for live entertainment and various beachfront amenities. It already has a waiting list of 100,000 interested buyers, Minto officials say.

A second Latitude Margaritaville development was announced for Hilton Head, S.C. And for the Margaritaville-Minto partnership's third joint project, it turned to Harbour Isle, a 220-acre private island community on Anna Maria Sound in Bradenton that Minto had already partially developed.

The partners will team up on the third phase of that site, One Particular Harbour Margaritaville. It will feature a marina with 55 wet slips and 128 dry slips; up to 30,000 square feet of commercial space with retail shops and a Margaritaville restaurant; and 132 condos at Marina Walk on One Particular Harbour. Some of those units were already constructed before the partnership was formed and are move-in ready; others are being built. The project, say Minto officials, will cost more than $100 million.

The marina, which Bullock says is on a “superb” location, is expected to be completed by spring, with the retail component following later in 2018. “There are things that are really going to be exciting for the local market, some uses that we believe this geographic location desperately needs,” says Bullock, based in Naples.

Minto has another advantage in the project: access to Margaritaville's iconic intellectual property. Buildings at Marina Walk, for instance, are named after Jimmy Buffett song lyrics. (“One Particular Harbor” is a song Buffett recorded in 2005.)

“But with that comes a huge responsibility to our buyers,” says Bullock. “They walk in the door with a certain expectation. It's not a challenge but a heightened sense of awareness and authenticity in everything we do. Because we know buyers are discriminating, and when you're calling yourself Margaritaville, it better be the real thing.”

In addition to buyers, Bullock says subcontractors and tradespeople sought out Minto in Daytona Beach, even for the curiosity factor with the Margaritaville connection.

More Margaritaville developments are on the way, given Minto has a national license agreement with the brand for the 48 contiguous states. “These won't be the only projects, I can promise that,” Bullock says. “If we didn't have this name recognition, it would be more of a challenge for us going into other markets.”

Also, the Margaritaville name, relaxed as it is, should spell improved bottom line for Minto. “Our absorption volumes are going to increase dramatically because of the national exposure and recognition the Margaritaville name provides us,” says Bullock. “It allows us to move through an asset that much quicker.”

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