A congregation of local and county officials and dignitaries showered praises on Neal Communities’ newest housing development, Grand Palms, at a grand opening on Friday.
Sitting under a tent equipped with fans in the 90-degree heat, County Commissioner Carolyn Mason likened it to a revival meeting.
The development is the first of its kind, said County Commissioner Nora Patterson, the kind envisioned in the 1998 planning effort called the Sarasota 2050 Initiative, designed to encourage housing that meets low-impact standards. The standards call for, among other things, diversity of housing within developments, and wilderness and wildlife preservation.
Patrick Neal, founder of Neal Communities, said the homes planned in Grand Palms harken back to an “old-time community.”
When built out, the subdivision will be home to more than 4,000 people.
Thirty-three percent of Grand Palms is preserved for wildlife and parks.
The first phase, of 266 homes, opened for sale on Friday with six models. Another four models are expected to open by early October.
Floor plans vary from 1,079 square feet to 2,535 square feet, including one- and two-story homes. The community has a 10-acre centerpiece Exploration Park, and 25 additional planned parks and pond areas.
A 32-acre lake is planned by the end of next year, which includes an 8-acre island park accessible from the mainland. The community will have miles of bicycle paths that interconnect eastward to the Jelks Preserve bordering the Myakka River.
Neil said the development will employ 90 workers, and provide the county with
$11 million in taxes each year.
Patterson thanked Neal for “investing his dollars and concept” to make it work.
“We’re creating a community, not a subdivision,” she said.
“What impressed me is the diversity of housing, amenities and price,” said Mason. “There’s something for everyone.”
“From what I see here, we have another great planner,” said Venice Mayor John Holic.
“This is a great community and we’d love to have you in the city,” he said, envisioning a future annexation.