- January 25, 2013
Verdana Village, a new master-planned development currently under construction off Corkscrew Road in Estero, will have a lot of the amenities you would expect from a residential community in Florida. There will be resort-style pools, a dog park and playground, and even spots for bocce ball and horseshoes.
But Verdana Village will also offer amenities that are a little more out-of-the-ordinary. In addition to the usual outdoor tennis and pickleball courts, the community will include a sports complex with indoor tennis and pickleball courts. “I think that is going to be a very unique feature,” says Nick Cameratta, COO of Cameratta Companies, the Estero-based family-owned firm developing Verdana Village. “We’ve always believed in building projects that are a little ahead of the curve.”
Nick’s father, Joseph, founded Cameratta Cos. in 1978. Nick's brother Dominic is CFO, and brother Tony is the firm’s civil engineer. After first developing projects in Ohio, the company shifted focus to Florida, originally working in downtown Fort Myers. Lately the firm has been active along the Corkscrew Road corridor east of Interstate 75 in fast-growing Estero, where it’s already developed The Preserve at Corkscrew, Corkscrew Shores and The Place at Corkscrew.
The family’s knowledge of that stretch, combined with its proximity to Southwest Florida International Airport, Florida Gulf Coast University and a slew of shopping, restaurant and health care options, made it a natural choice for the company’s Verdana Village project. (Cameratta declines to share a price tag for the project.) “The Corkscrew corridor is just an area that has got a lot of great things that go along with it,” says Cameratta, 41.
The more than 2,100-acre Verdana Village project is planned for 2,400 single-family homes and up to 100,000 square feet of commercial property. Site improvements on the first phase of the project, which will include 600 home sites, are nearing completion.
Lennar and Pulte Homes will be equally sharing homebuilding duties at Verdana Village, and both companies already have models underway, with sales starting at some point in the late summer or early fall. Both builders have worked with Cameratta Cos. previously on other Corkscrew Road projects.
“We have a great working relationship with them,” says Scott Schilling, area sales manager for Lennar. “They always have exciting new plans for new ideas and new communities they’re developing….We’re excited to be partnering with them again. All of their other communities have been very successful, and we’re excited to grow with them and release the new community to the public.”
When developing Verdana Village, Cameratta Cos. drew on its past experience along Corkscrew Road. But the firm also needed to continue innovating.
“We try to develop a different lifestyle in each of our communities,” Nick Cameratta says. “And since we’ve developed multiple projects all along Corkscrew Road, it can be challenging to say the least to come up with different communities and different amenities and different lifestyles….But we’ve never been a believer of building the same thing as everybody else, or the same thing over and over. We come in with a unique approach.”
At Verdana Village, that includes not only the indoor sports complex at the main amenity site but also features like a yoga lawn, full-service restaurant, outdoor pool bar and the planned Craft Lounge serving craft beers on tap plus a light food menu. The size of the community also allows for a second amenity site in the first phase of the project, which will have a pool, picnic area and clubhouse with fitness center, plus the potential for another amenity area in the eastern portion of the development in the future. It’s all designed to appeal to a mix of buyers, from young families to active retirees who’ll be able to play tennis or pickleball year-round without suffering in the Florida heat.
“The thing that stands out the most to me about Cameratta Cos. is their excellence with building resort-style amenities,” says Josh Graeve, vice president of sales for the Southwest Florida division of PulteGroup. “The uniqueness, the thought that goes into the planning and the creativity and differentiation of their communities is the best that I’ve worked with.”
Case in point: the pool complex with a 100-foot waterslide the company built at The Place at Corkscrew. “Cameratta Cos. is often on the forefront and cutting edge of creativity and standout features in their amenities,” says Graeve.
But they don’t just focus on the fun extras. “They’re very thoughtful about all of the small details, from how much space you’ll have for your driveway and doubling the size of the front setbacks to the lampposts and everything in between,” says Graeve.
It’s a partnership that benefits everyone involved. “We do everything as the land developer,” says Cameratta. “We own the land, get it entitled, design the community, install all the infrastructure and build and design all the amenities that go with the community. The builders focus on what they do best, which is building homes. It really works out well: They’re experts at building homes, and we enjoy the land development business. It’s a nice team effort.”
The company’s experience working along the Corkscrew corridor has also taught them the importance of the environmental elements of their Florida projects. At Verdana Village, the community incorporates natural vegetation and preserve areas into the design plan. The company also willingly takes on restoration work at its projects and will be installing millions of plants at Verdana Village.
'We’ve never been a believer of building the same thing as everybody else, or the same thing over and over. We come in with a unique approach.’ Nick Cameratta, Cameratta Cos.
“To be successful in our area, you have to know the best approach and how to handle the environmental impacts and restoration work that’s necessary to develop properties in our area,” says Cameratta. “That is a critical component, and we know that area of the business very well. We’ve done some great things when it comes to the environmental efforts at all our communities, and I think that is a big deal. We don’t just look at a piece of property and build a new development; we look at how we can restore things.”
He says past projects like The Place at Corkscrew have helped restore flow ways and habitats in the area. “I believe in it, and people do enjoy seeing the habitats and the wildlife,” he says.
Christina Traver, director of marketing for Lennar’s Southwest Florida division says Cameratta Cos. goes above and beyond on every project. “The attention to design throughout their entire communities, everything from great homesite locations to amenities, is just beyond compare to anything in this area,” Traver says.
Lennar hasn’t announced price points yet but will be offering a variety of home options at a range of pricing. Pulte Homes will be offering a new generation of floorplans at Verdana Village ranging from the $300s to $700s.
Those new floorplans are the result of more than a year of consumer testing and feedback and will include features like open kitchens, gathering and dining spaces, an emphasis on outdoor living and flexible space for working from home. “One of the components they’ll have is a new work-from-home option that insulates and adds additional electrical features to the den/office,” says Graeve. “So if someone was working from home, they would have a more comfortable space to work.”
“Our communities have been very successful because we try to deliver a multigenerational community,” says Cameratta. “We do have buyers from all over the country and world. We get buyers who are in some cases empty-nester grandparents, and the next thing you know the children have moved into that same community. We’ve even had on multiple occasions three generations living in the same development, because there’s something for everyone.”
Cameratta Companies recently announced that the commercial portion of its new project, The Shoppes at Verdana Village, will feature Publix as its anchor tenant. The new Publix and adjacent Publix Liquor store will occupy about 49,500 square feet of the more than 78,000-square-foot development, and the Publix will be the grocer’s most advanced prototype store.
National real estate investment and development company WMG Development is overseeing The Shoppes at Verdana Village, which is projected for a late 2023 opening. It’s WMG’s first time working with Cameratta Cos. “The location of the real estate is obviously always a critical component,” says Craig Kopko, managing director of development at WMG Development. “But then the next step is the ability to perform in the product, and the Camerattas’ track record on Corkscrew is unmatched. The product that they put out, the type and quality of the projects — their track record is very well proven right in front of you.”
With Publix now on board, other tenants are expected to follow, since the grocer is guaranteed to draw customers to the center. “Publix will be the driver behind most of the shopping center and its future tenants,” says Kopko.
While this is WMG’s first project with Cameratta Companies, Kopko hopes it’s just the beginning. “They’re outstanding,” he says. “They think through every project, and they’re intentional with all of their decision making. They have that long-term vision in mind of what life will be like once these folks have moved in. It’s not just about getting lots and houses sold; it’s how do they create a great experience for them long term?
“Our two groups are similar: we’re very committed to our customers and core values, and we’re not willing to bend on those principles that drive both of our companies,” Kopko continues. “I think both sides are excited about doing more together in the future.”
What does that future hold for Cameratta Cos.? The company doesn’t have anything to disclose at this point, but it’s likely something new will be coming down the road. “We’re always actively looking in the market at other opportunities and potential land development opportunities,” says Cameratta. “So of course we’re looking around.”