DAYTONA BEACH — Jimmy Buffett wasn’t there, but that didn’t squelch the giddiness of local elected officials and business leaders who turned out Tuesday to help break ground for a planned community here inspired by the singer/songwriter’s music and laid-back Key West lifestyle.
“This is very exciting,” said Nancy Keefer, president and CEO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, one of more than 50 people attending the invitation-only event to kick off the initial phase of the planned 6,900-home Latitude Margaritaville, Daytona Beach, community for residents age 55 and older. The community — which has drawn national attention, including coverage by the “Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” and Rolling Stone magazine — is set to be built on the north side of LPGA Boulevard, just west of Interstate 95.
The 1,600-acre development, a joint project of Canadian-based Minto Communities and Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings company, will include a commercial center along LPGA Boulevard that is expected to include a grocery store as well as restaurants and shops, which could include some of the food-and-beverage concepts operated by Margaritaville Holdings, confirmed John Cohlan, the company’s CEO who along with Buffett is a majority owner.
Cohlan noted that Buffett, while having yet to visit the site, is involved in the project. “I’m sure (Buffett) will be here, schedule permitting,” Cohlan said. “He usually attends grand openings (for Margaritaville Holdings projects).”
Cohlan added that Latitude Margaritaville will include a music bandshell at its residents-only town center and that it is likely that Buffett at some point would perform there. “You never know when or where he’s going to show up, but he does,” Cohlan said.
Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley said Latitude Margaritaville is helping to raise the area’s profile, which already has been ranked as one of the nation’s fastest-growing communities.
“Being attached to Margaritaville as the first community (of several planned) to be built … it says a lot about our area,” Kelley said, adding that he welcomes the jobs the new development will create as well as the new amenities it will be adding, including an oceanfront beach club in Ormond-by-the-Sea that residents will be able to access via a shuttle. The groundbreaking event included live music by local performer Skip “Steel Daddy” Lilly, who played Buffett tunes, including “Margaritaville,” on steel drums and guitar, as well as free food and promotional item giveaways.
Cohlan said the concept behind Latitude Margaritaville is to offer a community that emphasizes “fun, friends and quality. You work hard and you’ve earned the right to go to Margaritaville. This is really what our brand is all about: creating a fun environment for people to enjoy themselves.”
William Bullock, a senior vice president with Minto Communities, said sales for house lots are set to begin this fall, when the sales center for the development, which is already under construction, is set to open.
Model homes touting an Old Florida/Key West architectural style are on track to open by January with the first new homes ready for move-in by fall 2018.
Prices for homes are expected to range from the low $200,000s to the mid-$300,000 with lots ranging in width from 54 feet to 64 feet. “The homes will not be sandwiched together,” Bullock said, adding that all will either be along a water feature or a nature preserve.
While Minto has developed successful communities in Florida before, the interest generated by Latitude Margaritaville far exceeds the level of interest and national publicity of any of its other projects, Bullock said.
Since February, when it announced plans to build a real-life Margaritaville in Daytona Beach, Bullock said more than 45,000 people have registered to receive regular email updates on the project. “It’s a huge number,” he said. “We were told by the Margaritaville (Holdings) guys to expect amazing things and so far it’s come to fruition. We’ve never seen this magnitude of interest in a project this early on.”
Minto officials have said they expect to sell and build at least 300 homes a year at Latitude Margaritaville and could potentially increase the size of the community to as many as 8,000 homes, should the demand merit it by acquiring adjacent land from Consolidated-Tomoka.
Reports of plans to develop the Jimmy Buffett-themed community, first reported by The News-Journal, “literally went viral on us,” Bullock said. “This is really the first time a builder has partnered up with an iconic lifestyle brand with the reach that Jimmy Buffett has.”
Mike Belmont, president of Minto’s U.S. operations, said he’s not surprised by the buzz that Latitude Margaritaville has generated. “Everyone relates to fun and escapism,” he said, adding that the community will be “rich with activities,” including concerts and special events, as well as amenities such as a resort-style pool and pickleball courts.
“It’s a great location,” Belmont added. “Daytona is a fun place to be, with a beautiful beach, and it’s just 45 minutes from Orlando. It’s the perfect location.”