July 15, 2007 2007 News-Journal Corporation 

New subdivision under development far from suburbia

Business Writer

DAYTONA BEACH -- Leroy B. Gattis grew up in a neighborhood along Derbyshire Road, and his parents still live there.

The 32-year-old Gattis anticipates moving into a new neighborhood soon. But he's not moving to one of the subdivisions forming on the edge of the metropolitan area. He's moving to a new neighborhood taking shape not far from the same west-side community where he played as a child. Gattis recently reserved a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Shady Oaks at Daytona, a housing development under construction at Sixth and Vine streets here.  The builder is San Antonio-based Santex Builders LLC. The company is one of a handful of small builders that are turning vacant lots in established communities into homes for buyers who like the idea of living in the older areas and for whom the price is right.

Infill development is the term coined to describe new construction built on vacant land in established neighborhoods. Sometimes, the land is vacant because houses have been torn down or the lot has just been allowed to become blighted. In this case, however, the development required clearing woods, meaning it may never have been built on. Work is slated to commence soon on the streets within the development.  Plans call for about 18 single-family houses, ranging in price from the mid-$170,000's to about $200,000, according to Steve Medlin of Santex's residential division. The company has a local office on Nova Road in Holly Hill.  Medlin said he and his brother bought the 4.5-acre site several years ago and waited until the time was right.

"Land is what governs housing cost. With the price range that we have, we find there is a lot of demand," he said.


The company also plans to build Bentley Oaks, a 16-unit town-house community in Holly Hill.

"We're not a big builder," Medlin said, adding he normally has no more than two to three houses under construction. His goal at Shady Oaks is to create an affordable housing community in an established area of the city where working families can put down roots.  "They now have an option," he said, adding his company has already reserved five houses for potential buyers. They range in size from 1,352 square feet to 1,654 square feet of living space.  Robert Scott, also with Santex, said the project seems to be a hit with their target market -- teachers, nurses, city employees, public safety employees and others who have been priced out of the housing market by the market boom in recent years.

Both Gattis and his wife are educators. "The price was definitely a consideration," he said in a telephone interview recently.

The couple tried to qualify for a first-time home buyers assistance program but found their household income exceeded the guidelines. But instead of giving up, they continued working with officials at Mid-Florida Housing and subsequently learned about Shady Oaks.


"When we talked with Steve, he allowed us to customize our home," Gattis said, adding that was another reason they decided to build there.

Across town, businessman Larry Stephens also is bringing new life to older neighborhoods through the construction of infill houses. Stephens, 47, has two houses nearing completion on Adams Street, between Orange and Magnolia avenues. He recently completed another house on Madison Avenue, which is for sale.

Stephens is a partner in L&G Associates, which is building homes in some of the city's older, working-class neighborhoods. His business partner is developer and businessman George Anderson, according to public records.

"I think the people in those communities deserve something as good or better as that in the LPGA," Stephens said, referring to an upscale development on the city's extreme western boundary.

Stephens, who grew up in one of the city's older areas, said he also was interested in seeing those communities once again become places where families clamor to live.

"We're getting ready to do two more on Maple Street," Stephens said, whose background includes stints as an economic development and community relations consultant.

Stephens, a graduate of Florida State University, also is a licensed mortgage broker. Buyers, however, are not required to use his company, he said. "If they are prequalified, it is up to the bank to decide if they can get a loan."

He said he hasn't had to do much advertising. Most of the interest he has gotten was generated by word-of-mouth. He started renovating houses until someone suggested that he try building them from the ground up.  The problem with renovating old houses is that "you never know what you may find when you peel back the covers," he said.


That idea hasn't frightened businessman Michael Andersen.

Andersen also is looking to help revitalize some of the city's down-and-out neighborhoods, too, but not by building homes. Andersen's company, Casa de Comienzo Fresco, is involved in rehabilitating old, boarded-up houses and duplexes. In some cases, the properties have been used in recent years for the sale of illegal drugs.

"I am getting a foothold in this community and creating a break in the chain of bad influences," Andersen said. Once he rehabs a house, he rents it to tenants who qualify for Section 8, a government housing subsidy program.

His approach, Andersen said, is aimed at those who can't afford to buy a house but still want a decent place to live. " It is my firm belief that in order for a family to thrive, they need a quality, safe and drug-free environment to raise their kids that is affordable," he said.


Emory Counts, Daytona Beach community development director, said getting private business investment to happen in older neighborhoods is a goal of his department and the city through its infill program.

"We have seen more and more of private business over the years particularly in areas where the community development department has made an earlier investment," Counts said. "Madison Heights is a good example of the department coming in and building a number of homes, helping to add water and sewer, and pave the roads."

He also noted the city is in the process of developing Flomich Woods, a 24-unit affordable housing project off Derbyshire Road. It would be similar to Cardinal Estates, a new home subdivision built in the late 1990s that successfully gave a large number of low-income families the opportunity to own their own homes.