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Russ Lemmon - In Indian River Co., luxury homes on mainland starting to rival those found on island

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - These are the type of homes you’d find on the barrier island.

They offer “32963”-caliber luxury in ZIP codes heretofore considered rural.

Who knew the area west of 74th Avenue would be such a draw for the luxury homebuyer?

“We’ve talked with a lot of folks, the typical island buyer, and they’re just tired of paying the high taxes and the high HOA (homeowners’ association) fees,” said John Genoni, co-owner of the local franchise of Arthur Rutenberg Homes. “They’re not necessarily looking to downsize, but they want to get away from that monthly expense.”

That’s why Genoni’s company, Beachland Homes Corp., decided to build an $825,000 model home on the mainland.

The model home is just west of 74th Avenue off Eighth Street — or in the 32966 ZIP code. The actual address is 984 E. Polo Grounds Drive. Yes, it’s within a polo community, but Genoni says a home could be built anywhere, including the barrier island.

“We’re an on-your-lot builder,” he said. “We were just looking for a good mainland location (for a model home).”

That being said, there are 27 available lots in the polo community.

A high-end development showing signs of life after the real estate crash is Stoney Brook Farm, at 82nd Avenue and Eighth Street. (It’s in the 32968 ZIP code.) Houses are selling in the $400,000 range.

GHO Homes has a model in Stoney Brook Farm, which features half-acre lots. Having been given a tour of the model by Bill Handler, the company president, I can tell you it definitely has the “wow” factor.

“The market has rebounded a great deal,” Handler said. “All of the fear and compression is gone. Now you’re back at a point where things feel level.”

But a high-end development on 82nd Avenue is somewhat of a head-scratcher because, relatively speaking, it is in “the middle of nowhere.”

The GHO website puts a positive spin on the location: “Stoney Brook Farm, a gated estate home community, is situated in a tranquil country setting and yet it is only 10 minutes away from everything.”

Everything except the beach, perhaps.

Times have changed. Years ago, living west of 66th Avenue was frowned upon because it was not a convenient location for grocery shopping and retail stores.

Handler explained why the perception has changed:

“This is where people came to relax — ‘I can decompress on the drive home.’ At one time, it was hard to get people to come out here. Realtors wouldn’t come out here. All of these things were challenges. I wouldn’t say this is the same case.

“It’s still quiet, it’s still west, it’s still the country feel — and we try to play off that.”

Stoney Brook Farm is about a mile south of State Road 60, so it’s not like you’re going to stumble upon it.

“You’re not going to drive these streets for no reason,” Handler said. “So, you don’t know the projects are here. You don’t appreciate them until you’re out here.”

Chances are, with more people moving into nice homes west of 66th Avenue, retail establishments along S.R. 60 will follow.

“Rooftops will always drive commercial development,” Handler said. “That was part of my game plan. I do believe in west, and I do believe in State Road 60 — it’s Main Street, period. It’s how you get to town.”

In anticipation of the market rebounding, GHO Homes recently bought a commercial site on S.R. 60 as a sales site for its multiple developments in Indian River County.

“The market has gotten healthier and more stable,” he said. “I used to say when we started back up (a few years ago), you couldn’t predict what the next week would be. I got a good feeling what next week will be. Another year? Who knows? As long as the economy stays rational, we can keep going along here making deals that make sense.”

The $825,000 model home Genoni’s company is building should be ready in December. (Construction should be completed in October, and the furniture will be delivered in mid-November.) The house is 3,400 square feet with three bedrooms and three bathrooms.

The quality of the house, he said, “is very similar to what you’d see on the island.”

The only difference is the ZIP code.

Russ Lemmon is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects his opinion. Contact him at 772-978-2205 or russ.lemmon@scripps.com. He will appear on WTTB 1490 AM’s “Local News Magazine” at 8:50 a.m. Friday.

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