New home designs turn around distressed project

Doug Maier, president of Maier Development Solutions, Jacksonville, and architect Deryl Patterson, a partner in BSB Design?s Jacksonville office, explain how they rebooted Old San Jose with new product and a fresh streetscape.

By Susan Bady, Contributing Editor | July 19, 2013

After a false start by the original developer, Old San Jose on the River became the hottest-selling community in Jacksonville, Fla. Doug Maier, president of Maier Development Solutions, Jacksonville, and architect Deryl Patterson, a partner in BSB Design?s Jacksonville office, explain how they rebooted Old San Jose with new product and a fresh streetscape.

DI: Give us a brief history of Old San Jose on the River.

Maier: Old San Jose is on the St. Johns River near San Marco and San Jose, two upscale Jacksonville neighborhoods. The previous developer wanted to do four high-rise buildings with 18 units per building; three-story townhomes with front-loaded garages; and flat-over-flat fourplexes with single-car garages. I believe that more than 240 units were in the original plan.

When Old San Jose first opened in 2007, a lot of the infrastructure had been completed. One high-rise building, one fourplex building and three townhomes had been built. Then the housing market crashed and, in 2008, construction stopped. Real Capital Solutions (RCS), a Denver-based company that specializes in failed projects, bought the bank note later that year.

Old San Jose reopened for sales in 2011. In 2012, the fourplex building and four high-rise units were sold.

DI: How did you get involved with the project?

Maier: I?m an independent builder/developer. I get hired to manage projects, put a new team and vision together, and execute the plan. RCS had been working with the original developer for a year or so but they weren?t happy with where the project was going, so they interviewed a number of companies in Jacksonville. They contacted me in December 2011 and liked the vision I had for the project. 

I assembled a team that included Vikki Robbins of Victoria Robbins Realty, Deryl Patterson and Lynette Dinneen, a sales consultant for the original developer. Lynette had a good handle on the customers who had been coming in over the past two or three years. With our combined experience in the Jacksonville area, we determined that the target market for Old San Jose was mainly empty nesters who were ready to move down to a smaller, higher-end product. But we felt we still needed to have some product available for families as well.

Ten-foot ceilings and open floor plans enhance the spaciousness of the Avondale, a single-family home at Old San Jose. The detached homes range from 1,939 to 2,952 square feet. Just prior to selling out, they were priced from $399,000 to $515,000. ?Our strategy was to increase prices every three sales,? says realtor Vikki Robbins. 

DI: I assume that included single-family detached homes, which were not part of the original offerings.

Maier: The previous developer tried, but failed to get entitlements to build single-family homes at Old San Jose because of poor relationships with the city council and neighborhood organizations. So the first thing I focused on was rebuilding the credibility of the project. We told them about our new vision and what we were going to do for the community.

Before we became involved, Old San Jose had three different product lines with nothing in common other than a Mediterranean look. One of our goals was to integrate single-family homes and give the community a cohesive feel. We focused on the street scene, the architecture and the progression of the homes.

Patterson: We designed four single-family plans, each 50 feet wide with three-car garages. We wanted to give the homes a timeless look so that in 10, 15 or 20 years, the neighborhood will look as if it?s always been there. The homes, coupled with pocket gardens and 100-year-old trees that Maier Development was able to preserve on the site, really create what I call a legacy neighborhood look.

To create the varied, rich, diverse streetscape that RCS had in mind, we keyed off the architecture of San Marco and San Jose. Those neighborhoods have a mix of styles such as Georgian, Mediterranean and coastal which gives them an eclectic feel.

Instead of just three elevations, we did four: French Country, Mediterranean, Tuscan and coastal. Then we layered in colors that enhance and reinforce those styles. The color palettes impart a lot of variety to the streetscape and complement the personality of the buyers, if you will.

The exterior finishes include brick and stone. Buyers who don?t go with the masonry or lap siding options can select stucco with two body colors that give it some animation.

Four different elevations are offered with the single-family homes, creating a rich and varied streetscape. The homes include three-car garages with carriage-style doors, paver driveways and concrete tile roofs.

DI: How did you develop the new designs?

Maier: We invited the RCS principals to a design charrette and spent a couple of days working through the design process with Deryl and the rest of our team. It was really a lot of fun.

We liked the fourplex but it had some weaknesses, so we changed it to a triplex to make the units a little more functional. The triplexes have two-car garages instead of single-car garages, and they?ve been well received.

DI: What challenges did you run into along the way?

Maier: We had to hit a certain price point and volume to make the economic yield work, but being located on the river, we had no comps. Luckily our first six buyers were cash buyers; once we closed on those homes we had our comps. High-end homes on the beach are running at about $150 to $200 per square foot. We?re averaging about $220 per square foot for our single-family homes, and our high-rise product averages $240 to $250 per square foot. We?ve established a whole new market.

DI: How many homes have you sold since your team took over?

Maier: We?re into our third triplex building, with 50 percent of those homes sold. All of the single-family homes are sold, except for two riverfront lots where buyers  build custom homes. The high-rise units are sold out.

So to date, we?ve sold close to $25 million worth of real estate. We had a 3-1/2 to 4-year business plan that was put in place in January 2012, and it looks like we?ll have the entire development built out within two years.

The makeup of the community is approximately 75 percent empty nesters and 25 percent families. We really did find a very nice market niche.

The rear patio of this condominium has a stunning view of the St. Johns River. 

DI: So how many homes total are there at Old San Jose, and who?s building them?

Maier: There will be a total of 86 homes, including 32 single-family homes. New Leaf Construction of Jacksonville is building all the homes including the custom homes on the river. The riverfront lots are being sold as a home-and-site package, starting at $979,900 which includes additional landscaping and site prep work and a dock permit for a private dock.

DI: Are there other attributes that make Old San Jose attractive to buyers?

Maier: It?s a gated community with a perimeter wall that encloses the property. There?s a riverfront strolling plaza and park, and an amenity center with a swimming pool, an outdoor kitchen and wet bar, a fitness center and a clubhouse, plus an outdoor fireplace that?s 14 feet long. There?s also private riverfront access via the community dock, which extends more than 300 feet over the river. At the end of the dock is a big pavilion where residents can have parties.

Another plus is that residents can walk to Starbucks and a grocery store, which literally are right across the street from the entrance to the community.


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