Real-life Margaritaville wows parrothead retirees

DAYTONA BEACH — Near the corner of Latitude Drive and Margaritaville Avenue, 72-year-old Jack Conroy explained why he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his years surrounded by all things Jimmy Buffett.

“It’d be a good lifestyle,” he said, following a sign that pointed “This Way to Paradise” and nine model homes replete with images of parrots, flip-flops and surfboards. Bottles of “Mango Margaritaville Mix” evoked happy thoughts of wasting away on tequila and cheeseburgers as Buffett’s voice crooned from hidden speakers:

That old sun is hot and that old clock is moving slow.

If there is one thing that is not moving slow, it is Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach, Florida’s newest 55-and older retirement community. A collaboration of Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings and Tampa-based Minto Communities USA, it has enjoyed a reception nothing short of phenomenal ever since it was announced a year ago.

When the sales center opened in November, more than 200 Parrotheads — as Buffett’s fans are known — camped overnight for the chance to put a deposit on one of the first 378 lots available.

On the last weekend in February, 3,000 people showed up for the opening of the model homes.

And every day since, droves of prospective buyers and curiosity seekers have been pulling off nearby 1-95, climbing on shuttle buses marked “Latitude” and riding out to the site where residents will start moving in next month.

For the over-55 set, Margaritaville Daytona Beach is becoming a bona fide tourist attraction.

“There’s huge interest,” says Bill Bullock, Minto’s senior vice president. “We’re seeing crowds like a destination-level attraction.”

Susan and Arthur Lydick of Jacksonville, “big partiers in our day,” arrived on a recent Thursday morning and spent 40 minutes wandering in and out of the Key West-style models, professionally staged and painted in Easter egg pastels. The actual homes will be about 1,500- to 2,500- square feet and range from the low $200,000s to the mid $300,000s.

“The pricing is good for us,” said Susan, who wants to downsize from their 3,000-square-foot house. Her husband, who uses a cane, likes the idea of driving a golf cart to the town center, which will include a grocery, Latitude Bar & Grill and a Barkaritaville pet salon. Shuttles will ferry residents to a private beach 15 minutes away.

Showing the couple around was Daytona Beach real estate agent Marc Greenberg. Since the models opened Feb. 24, he’s averaged four trips a week to Margaritaville with clients.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “The vibe is youthful, everyone who comes in is so excited and overwhelmed by what the project is going to be. The prices are really nice.”

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