Heirs of late Osceola cattle rancher Henry O. Partin found what they were looking for: a buyer for the entire 5,977-acre Green Island Ranch that stretches along the southeast shore of Lake Tohopekaliga.
“We are under contract at this time,” Dusty Calderon, Partin’s grandson, told GrowthSpotter. “We had a lot of interest in the property, and we settled on what we felt was the best buyer. They’re going through their due diligence process.”
Calderon joined SVN Saunders Ralston Dantzler Real Estate and teamed up with land specialist Dean Saunders in March to list the property that had been in his family for 100 years for $140 million. The campaign reached a global audience and generated about a dozen offers, half of which were at or above the asking price.
But the winning bid came from a longtime family friend who happens to live right across from the ranch.
Reed Berlinsky, president of St. Cloud’s Gentry Land Company, told GrowthSpotter he is partnering with Wheelock Street Capital to buy the ranch and bring the county’s vision of a mixed-use community to fruition. They expect to close by the end of the year.
The two companies have worked together on projects such as Randal Park, just east of Lake Nona, which they sold in 2014. They were looking for another big Florida project as they near completion of Starkey Ranch, the top-selling master-planned community in the Tampa Bay market. They launched that community in 2013 and delivered 2,500 homesites to a slate of builders.
Berlinsky said they were attracted to the Green Island Ranch because they felt the market along Lake Toho had matured and the timing was right. “These projects have been on the board for a long time, and the market has grown into them. It’s a great legacy project owned by a great family, and the county has teed it up. They’ve done a great job with the conceptual master plan.”
The sprawling ranch has entitlements through Osceola County’s comprehensive plan for up to 17,000 residential units and millions of square feet for office, industrial and commercial space. The development order even calls for a regional mall, a research park and a marina on Lake Toho.
The project will take decades to complete. For Berlinsky, it will be his “swan song,” capping a career that has spanned decades in central Florida.
“I’m just like every other neighbor. I live right across the street from this property,” he said. “It will be great to take the vision and make it something the whole community is proud of.”
Wheelock, which is headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut and Boston, also has a local connection in Principal Dan Green, who manages the firm’s residential land and home building investments from Lakeland. Green has helped build a multi-state portfolio encompassing more than 24,000 residential lots in a dozen communities. He and Berlinsky met with the Partin family to be sure they understood the vision.
“We feel good about the group’s capacity,” Calderon said. “It was a unified decision — all the family members are on board. We’re all a little anxious. It’s tough to sell a legacy property like this.”
For the Starkey Ranch project, Wheelock partnered with Pasco County to build a regional park and co-located a K-8 school, black box theater and public library within the community.
“At Wheelock, we do great projects that really blend in with the community,” Berlinsky said. They already have a team of consultants who are poring over the conceptual master plan that was adopted as part of Osceola County’s South Lake Toho Element in 2009 and will serve as the framework for the development of Green Island.
“There needs to be some credit to the county for this forward planning they’ve done,” he said. “It will mean a lot later on.”