Northeast Polk County is getting a massive new subdivision after years of work to bring utilities to the area and extend Ernie Caldwell Boulevard from U.S. 17-92 to U.S. 27. Developers Bob Adams, formerly of Highland Homes, and Reggie Baxter are building the Astonia community on 160 acres they bought last month from Standard Sand & Silica Co.
“It’s finally coming to fruition,” Adams told GrowthSpotter. Getting utilities to the area and Ernie Caldwell extended was a joint effort by the land sellers, developers and Polk County, he said.
“This will be the first significant development on it.” Under the name Ernie Caldwell Properties, Adams and Baxter paid $9.3 million for the land located west of the intersection of Ernie Caldwell Boulevard and Lee Jackson Highway, northwest of US 17/92, according to the deed.
The first phase of Astonia will be 681 lots, Adams said. Highland Homes, sold to Berkshire Hathaway last year and now being run by Adams’ son, will build 300 of the homes. Ryan Homes will build 231, and D.R. Horton will get the remaining 150, he said.
Adams expects Phase 1 to get underway the first quarter of 2021. Phase 2, another 300-plus homes, is expected to follow 18 to 21 months later. John Schneider of Winter-Haven based Hunter Engineering is the engineer of record. Plans show “a major traffic study is currently being prepared by Wood & Associates Engineering, LLC,” and will be provided to the county upon receipt.
“It’s a good location. We’re optimistic about it,” Adams said. “I think all three builders will do well.”
The lots will be 40 and 50 feet wide, a trend throughout the greater Orlando metro. “It’s the driving force behind these lots – smaller lots, bigger houses,” Polk County planner Ian Nance said.
The city of Davenport currently is reviewing a plan to add a new zoning for the smaller 50-foot lots that allow for large homes but smaller front yards.
Plans for Astonia also include 6.59 acres of commercial outparcels for future retail and 6.9 acres for a much-needed public park with sports facilities and dog-walking areas, Nance told GrowthSpotter. The community also will have amenities just for homeowners in two different locations on the property, Adams said.
The county Development Review Committee is set to discuss the first phase project at its Jan. 23 meeting.
“None of this would be possible without the extension of Ernie Caldwell Boulevard,” Nance wrote in his staff report. The road was extended in 2017. “This roadway was planned for residential development in the area with sidewalks and large rights-of-way for extending utilities. The roadway has ample capacity to handle this request.”
A second entrance on Little Zion Road will have to be built after the first 200 homes are built, the county reported.
Schools will be needed but are in the works by the county, Nance said. The Ridgewood Lakes DRI has set aside land south of the proposed development for a school site. An elementary school will be built this year, followed by middle and high schools possibly in 2021, Nance said. Astonia’s first phase is expected to generate 135 elementary, 65 middle, and 91 high school students.
A fire/rescue station also is planned for the area that will accommodate the new population, Nance wrote in the staff report.
“The area has been waiting for the infrastructure to arrive,” Nance said. “It’s about halfway down Ernie Caldwell Boulevard east of 27 - it’s a pretty quick run to I-4. It’s well situated for transit purposes.” In addition, “we’re still affordable compared to Tampa and Orlando.”
Adams, who has been building in Florida for almost 50 years, said a lot has changed, especially the building industry. “We’re fortunate Florida has generous jobs and the migration of folks down here. Florida has come back.”