Celebration-based CBD Real Estate Investment is buying more land for single-family homes in Lake Wales, with one of the two planned developments in the area near Bok Tower Gardens and the vistas seen throughout the 250 acres surrounding them.
CBD President and Founder David Waronker wants Iron Mountain – located along Burns Avenue and Buck Moore Road – to have a connection to Bok Tower – and the botanical gardens created by famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. The site abuts land held by the Bok Tower Gardens Foundation. A special feature of the 345-lot community will be a walking path into the gardens, Waronker told GrowthSpotter.
“We’re going to create a paved walking trail that will let you go straight to Bok tower without going through the entrance,” Waronker said. “I feel really lucky that I got this site, really lucky. This one to me is the most unique.”
Bok Tower President David Price says direct access that skirts the gardens’ entrance isn’t likely but he would like to talk to Waronker about his plans and creating an attractive community near Bok Tower Gardens, he told GrowthSpotter. The property is nearly two miles from the entrance to the attraction.
“He hasn’t reached out to us, and he hasn’t shared anything with us,” Price said. “We welcome conversations with developers.”
Price said he knows the property Waronker is buying – “it’s a beautiful piece of property and some really nice views in the east and north” – and he would like to see it developed with “sensibility with the work we’ve been doing.”
Bok Tower Gardens is made up of nearly 50 acres of Olmsted gardens, 2.5-acre children’s garden Hammock Hollow, the 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion El Retiro at Pinewood and the 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower carillon. The goal is to preserve “the scenic beauty of the area,” Price said, and he would like to see developers incorporate those views in the communities they create.
“In 10-20-30 years, there is going to be a lot of development and there is going to be a need for open spaces,” Price said. “Otherwise, you pave over everything.”
CBD Real Estate signed a contract with landowner VDM Holdings LLC for 70 acres about 3 weeks ago after talks over the years with owner Corby Myers, who is a farmer and an attorney in Lake Wales, Waronker said.
“I paid more per acre for this than any other property in Polk County,” Waronker said without giving specifics. He expects the homes built at Iron Mountain to be “more upscale” and in the $400,000 to $500,000 range. The site plan, by Orlando-based Dave Schmitt Engineering, shows 144 lots at 40 x 110 feet, 129 at 50 x 110 and 72 at 60 x 110. Waronker and Price are on the same page about the types of homes to be built. Price said Lake Wales needs “executive housing.”
Price said he has seen the concept plan and would like to know more about Waronker’s plans.
“From what I saw in the concept, it didn’t look pretty. … I realize that it’s a concept,” he said. “We’re trying to preserve as much land around the gardens. We’re trying to preserve the vistas. In the past, there has been so much development with no regard to what’s around.”
Waronker said he knows the concept plan needs work. “We’re going to do a little more work on this site to make it less cookie cutter.” He expects to add a traffic circle at Burns and Buck Moore “to make it a little more interesting” and move the proposed entrance about 300 to 400 feet to the east versus what is on the current site plan “to make it more central.”
Waronker’s wife named the community Iron Mountain after the area in Lake Wales once known by the name and where Edward Bok commissioned the creation of the gardens, which has seen more than 23 million visitors since 1929.
“It’s just a beautiful area,” Waronker said, and a special community. “It’s really a privilege to be involved in this project.”
Waronker is scheduled to close on the land in January. He’s not sure if he will enter into a joint venture with a builder or if he will sell the lots. Century Communities and Lennar Homes, are interested, he said, “but it’s kind of too early” to talk about selling. “This is not on the market yet.”
Lennar is under contract to buy CBD’s Hunt Club properties in Lake Wales with closing expected this summer, Waronker said. Lennar plans to build 799 single-family homes and 357 townhomes in Hunt Club Grove North and South.
Steeplechase is the second community – on 98 acres – that CBD Real Estate has under contract to buy, and this one also has a homebuilder under contract, Waronker said.
Waronker is scheduled to close on the Steeplechase land by year-end and it is under contract with MI Homes to purchase it for 322 single-family homes after permitting. To be constructed in two sections, Steeplechase is located south of Highway 60, off of Belleview Drive. The property adjoins Groves at Orchard Hills, which CBD Real Estate proposed last year for 1,063 lots between Belleview and Passion Play Road along Hwy 17. CBD also planned 3.5 acres on Passion Play Road and 11th Street for a neighborhood commercial shopping area.
According to a site plan, also by Dave Schmitt Engineering, the development will consist of 111, 45 x 110-foot lots, 141 50 x 110-foot lots and 70 60 x 110-foot lots to be built in two sections and 3 phases. The first two phases will be 143 and 144 lots, with phase 3 made up of 35 lots. Plans show several pocket parks, a neighborhood park, and some ponds.
CBD is working with surveyor Steve Semple, Stillwater Engineering on environmental, Libby Rodriguez on traffic, and Anderson Kesnik landscape architects.
Waronker says he continues to look for and buy land – in Polk County and particularly in Lake Wales, where he sees a government that is pro-development and sees that impact fees can help improve the town – schools, police, sewer, water.
He’s not in a hurry to flip every development, and with Iron Mountain being a special project, Waronker said he will hold the land “if this market goes south” – it’s that special to him. The developer doesn’t, however, believe the market will take a downturn.
“There’s a buyer for every home in Central Florida,” he said. “I’ve been buying more land. I’ve been doing very well in Central Florida. Every project that we have is under contract.”