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Metro Development eyes FL markets outside Orlando due to land prices

This rendering shows what the Crystal Lagoon at Metro Development Group's Epperson residential development in Pasco County might look like.
This rendering shows what the Crystal Lagoon at Metro Development Group's Epperson residential development in Pasco County might look like. (Crystal Lagoons)

Metro Development Group, which is readying four large residential communities for development along Florida's west coast, is taking a pass on the Greater Orlando market, at least for now.

Metro president Greg Singleton told GrowthSpotter on Thursday the company can't make its business model work in Orlando because of the high price of land.

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"Yes, we would love to be in Orlando, we looked for opportunities in Orlando," Singleton said. "But we have not been able to make it work because of the price of land relative to development costs. And then there is the margin we would be able to make for our partners, the price builders will pay for lots and, ultimately, the price homebuyers will pay for a home. It's just not worth it."

Singleton spoke Thursday at a construction preview for Metro Lagoon, a 7.5-acre water body developed using Crystal Lagoons' patented water purifying and clarifying technology. The event was held at Metro Development's 2,000-lot Epperson community in Pasco County.

This photo shows early site work on the 7.5-acre Metro Lagoon at Metro Development's Eppeson development in Pasco County. Several kayaks can be seen in the basin.
This photo shows early site work on the 7.5-acre Metro Lagoon at Metro Development's Eppeson development in Pasco County. Several kayaks can be seen in the basin. (Mike Salinero)

The lagoons, featuring sparkling clear water free of pollutants and pathogens, are intended to add a "wow factor" to Metro's developments. In addition to Epperson, Metro and Crystal Lagoons are teaming up on three other residential communities: Mirada, also in Pasco just north of Epperson; SouthShore Bay in south Hillsborough County; and Brightwater in Fort Myers.

Metro, known for its communities built with ultra-high-speed internet infrastructure, had planned on developing a 406-acre residential community south of Kissimmee early last year. But the company backed out of its contract due to rising costs of additional off-site improvements and earthwork.

Developer Tramell Webb Partners is now seeking development permits for that land on behalf of the landowners, a family trust.

When asked about the Osceola County project, Singleton said Metro's involvement "could come back." He then changed course, calling the deal "dead" as far as Metro Development is concerned.

"Right now, the land price is too high for the rest of our costs," he said. "The only way to fix that is either somebody comes up with a better plan -- one that costs less to build -- or you reduce the land prices. Or builders decide they want to pay more for lots."

Crystal Lagoons, on the other hand, has several projects planned in the Orlando metro area, including a resort near the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club.

Uri Man, CEO of Crystal Lagoons USA, said the company is talking to potential private partners for single-family and multifamily residential and mixed-use projects.  One of the mixed-use projects will feature restaurants and cafes on the water.

"There are several developers in Orlando that we're in planning for development on lagoons, other than Lake Nona," Man said Thursday. "We can't announce them yet because the developers, we're under confidentiality until they decide when they want to go public. But there will be many lagoons in Florida."

GrowthSpotter reported in February 2016 that Westgate Resorts was negotiating with Crystal Lagoons to build a swimming lagoon as part of the next development phase at Westgate Town Center Resort & Spa in Kissimmee. The lagoon was to be surrounded by eight new timeshare buildings and associated parking.

Tavistock Development Company has contracted Crystal Lagoons to build an 11-acre lagoon to accompany a new resort hotel planned on 185 acres near the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club and adjacent to the USTA National Campus. The company also plans to develop a mix of single-family homes and condominiums on the site.

Two local developers that announced plans for giant swimming lagoons in 2015 have yet to file permits, but Crystal Lagoons USA CEO Uri Man says it hasn't slowed demand for the unique amenity, with negotiations active for five more projects in the Orlando market.

And in Fall 2015, Crystal Lagoons announced a partnership with Blue Development Group to build a five-acre lagoon in Kissimmee as part of a future condominium development.

Crystal Lagoons was founded by Chilean biochemist/developer Fernando Fischmann. The lagoons use a pulse disinfection system that puts small amounts of chemicals where they are needed at the appropriate time, and an ultrasonic filtration system that sends out sound waves to make particles in the water flocculate.

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"The combination of these two systems, as well as special equipment that we've engineered, allows for the use of less than 1 percent of the chemicals and 2 percent of the energy used in conventional swimming pool technology," Man said."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at msalinero@outlook.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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