Disney reaches deal with Mattamy Homes for Celebration Island Village

The Celebration Company has agreed to sell the fifth and final residential village of the Disney master-planned community to Mattamy Homes.

Alex Martin, Orlando Division president for the Canada-based homebuilder, told GrowthSpotter that Mattamy would purchase the 350-acre Celebration Island Village property in a series of three takedowns. Mattamy paid $15 million on Monday for the first phase. 

"This is a rare opportunity, and we're super excited," he said after the closing. "The good news is every developer says they want to mimic what Celebration has already achieved. The beauty is we get to carry on what Disney created at Celebration, and we can work hand-in-hand with Disney and the town architects to refresh the vision of what's already been wildly successful."

The Disney subsidiary began actively marketing the 350-acre site with CBRE in Fall 2016 after another developer backed out of the deal. GrowthSpotter first reported that Disney had lined up a new buyer in late July.

Island Village isn't Mattamy's largest project in Central Florida -- the developer inked a deal early this year to be the exclusive developer for Starwood, which has entitlements for 4,000 homes. But the "Celebration" brand and its affiliation with Disney will generate global interest in the project.

"First and foremost, this deal allows Mattamy to align our brand with brands of similar stature, and the opportunity to work with Disney -- that's a no-brainer," Martin said. "Secondarily, we feel we're the best fit for Celebration."

Island Village is the southernmost parcel within Celebration. The property has entitlements for 1,014 single-family homes, 296 apartments, 30,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial, an elementary school and five acres for park or civic uses.

Martin said the first phase would likely include all of the apartment units and approximately 300 single-family homes, as well as the pad for a new K-5 school

"Island Village will have its own town center," he added. "We want to create a reason for someone to come to Island Village, and there is an opportunity to put some commercial there. We want it to be a place where people can socialize and gather."

The developer is also considering a mixed-use concept with ground-floor commercial and upper-level apartments. Mattamy has been interviewing multifamily developers in Florida and nationally to find the best partner for the apartment complex.

"We would not be doing it ourselves," he said. "We want to bring in an apartment developer who understands the nuance of Celebration and the value it brings."

The first home models should be completed in 2019. Martin said Mattamy may open pre-sales before the models are done, based on demand. The builder will offer a variety of price points and will be designing a brand-new product portfolio for Island Village. 

"We will have an attached product and another three or four product lines," Martin said. "We want people across the spectrum to have an opportunity to purchase in the community."

Mattamy will work closely with Looney Ricks Kiss, the official town architect, to trails, parks and public spaces that emulate Celebration's other villages. 

"We look forward to seeing the unique home designs that Mattamy Homes brings to the Celebration Island Village area,” Celebration Company's Vice President Page Pierce said in a press release.

The developer is still in its early planning and design for Phase 1. Martin said the project would begin with a "decompression zone" that extends the "feel of Celebration."

Mattamy has held several focus groups with Realtors who are active in Celebration and with prospective buyers to study what's been successful there. 

"We take a lot of pride in the fact that we serve the market -- we don't dictate it," he said. 

Mattamy traditionally serves first-time and move-up buyers. The Celebration deal opens up an opportunity to service estate-home buyers. The company may partner with a limited number of custom home builders to develop the estate-sized lots.

"We haven't done custom homes," Martin said. "Celebration's past phases have been very successful with very high-end buyers who have specific wants and needs. If that's something we feel we can service, we'll give it a go. But if we feel like it's not in our wheelhouse, we'll look to other custom builders."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include the purchase price.

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