My wife and I were driving along Warfield Boulevard in Indiantown a few days ago, past a bunch of corporate chains and a handful of family owned restaurants.
“Where is the city center?” My wife asked.
“I think we just passed him,” I replied.
This may not be what locals would consider downtown. Maybe for them it is the street where the seat of the village government is located in an unpretentious shopping center. Or maybe it’s the neighboring civic center.
The point is, Indiantown is not a very big place. That could change, however.
The Garcia Companies, a Virginia-based company, has come up with a huge mixed-use project that could transform the laid-back community of western Martin County.
The plans call for about 2,500 residences, mostly single-family homes, as well as about 100,000 square feet of retail space, a clubhouse and recreation center, and possibly a 200-bed assisted living center.
“Indiantown has really been on our radar for a long time,” said Josh Kellam, president of Florida-based Garcia companies. “There is clearly a need for housing that has existed in the community for a long time. “
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The project, dubbed Terra Lago, would include more than 2,000 two- and three-bedroom homes, priced at around $ 230,000 to $ 280,000. There would also be around 170 townhouses, which Kellam said would be priced in the “100% high” range, and around 300 apartments which would be rented out at rents as yet undetermined.
Kellam said the goal is to create housing for teachers, first responders and blue collar workers who cannot afford the expensive properties further east along the Treasure Coast.
He predicted that buyers would come not only from Indiantown and other parts of Martin County, but also from neighboring St. Lucia and Palm Beach counties.
“Where can you buy a house in these communities for less than $ 500,000? He asked rhetorically.
The cranky old man in me laments that we have reached a point where house prices in the order of a quarter of a million dollars are now considered “affordable.” Yet the realist in me recognizes that Kellam is probably right.
In addition to residential and commercial space, Kellam said Terra Lago will include an extensive network of hiking trails and “pocket parks” which will be open to the public.
Assuming there are no hitches during the review process, Indiantown Village Council could consider final approval of the plans as early as December.
Kellam said construction on the first phase of the 10- to 15-year project – around 230 homes and the clubhouse – would begin shortly thereafter.
Althea Jefferson, Director of Community and Economic Development for Indiantown, shares Kellam’s belief that the housing would attract buyers from across the region.
“I predict that they will like the accommodation and find it at a better price,” Jefferson said. “I think they will find (Indiantown) a nice, quaint and cozy little village, but still close to the water.”
Indiantown has been here before.
As with other places on the Treasure Coast, citrus cultivation was once a big part of Indianown’s economy. In the years since this industry’s decline in South Florida, Indiantown searched for something new to fill the void.
Kevin Powers, broker / director at Indiantown Realty, said a few major development projects were proposed around 2007 or 2008.
“Like the rest of the world, they are gone with the recession,” Powers said.
Powers believes that an injection of new housing could also make Indiantown more attractive to new businesses.
“The first question we are asked is: ‘where is the accommodation of our employees? “He said.” When you have no accommodation, it’s hard to get them to come here. “
Other members of the community are also ready to adopt Terra Lago.
“I couldn’t be happier that they are in Indiantown,” said John Leonard, who owns property in Indiantown, including land across from the proposed site. “They’re talking about building houses for $ 250,000, which is unheard of.… It’s a wonderful little village, but it takes work.”
Feelings are not universal. Some fear that an influx of new residents to a village of just over 7,000 will destroy the rural character of Indiantown.
“Indiantown is a small country town,” said local resident John “JP” Pasquale. “There are deer and turkeys. You can’t find deer and turkeys in other towns in South Florida.”
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Deborah Banks, who lives across town from Terra Lago, said she was concerned not only about this project, but the development in general.
“In my opinion, it looks like a lot of houses,” Banks said of Terra Lago. “With those prices, it would be above the median income of most people who live here. Its size blew me away when I saw what the plan was.”
Scott Watson, owner of Indiantown Marina, believes critics of the project are fighting the change that will inevitably occur. Landowners have acquired rights to develop their land, he said.
“Some people want to look out the windows and only see trees,” he added. “If you want to buy the property, write a check.”
I understand that the development of Indiantown would be another setback for old Florida, which now exists mostly in inland areas that have yet to be ‘discovered’.
There aren’t enough people out there who want to preserve the less populated places in the state with checkbooks big enough to make this happen.
Like it or not, this is the way our world today. And if I drive to Indiantown in 10 or 15 years, I’m sure it will be difficult to drive through downtown without knowing it.
This column reflects the opinion of Blake Fontenay. Contact him by email at [email protected] or at 772-232-5424.