Bella Collina: Ginn’s Newest Orlando-area Development

Montverde, Fla. — When the Street of Dreams comes to Bella Collina in Fall 2006, the popular luxury home show couldn’t find itself at a more apropos place. How else can one describe a dreamy development that sold nearly 400 homesites for $174 million in only four hours in April 2004, then, one year later, recorded another $320 million in single-day lot sales to close out the gated golf and equestrian community just outside  Orlando.

That’s an incredulous $500 million in residential lot sales in a matter of two days, unprecedented sales figures in the Sunshine State. For Bella Collina developer Ginn Clubs & Resorts, that certainly makes the upscale private club community  a “Street of Dreams” by any measure. Now, the thousands who showed up for Bella Collina’s two launch parties and ended up leaving empty-handed can live vicariously through the Street of Dreams event that will showcase eight of the most luxurious homes in Florida.

“The quality of Bella Collina makes it the perfect venue for the Street of Dreams,” said Bryan Ashbaugh, CEO of Street of Dreams, Inc. “We have incredibly high standards when selecting locations for our Street of Dreams events and we believe that Bella Collina will ‘raise the bar’ beyond any previous shows.”

Indeed, eight of Florida’s top home builders, some of the most prominent names in Central Florida’s custom home building industry, will each design and showcase some of the most impressive custom homes imaginable, making the event one of the largest Street of Dreams events ever. Besides the total number of homes, though, what further distinguishrd this event is the size and scope of each residence. For example, the collection of homes will range in size from 7,000 to 13,000 square-feet and be priced from $4 million-plus to just under $5.7 million, according to Larry Smith, Bella Collina’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Of course each home will be completely furnished and accessorized by a team of leading interior designers. Don’t plan on buying one of these, however, because seven of the eight were already sold as of September 2005, including the 13,000-square-foot home being built by Homes by Carmen Dominguez. The rest of Bella Collina’s featured builders to be showcased at the coming event are: Ray Coudriet Builder, Inc.; J. Richard Watson Construction Company; Dave Brewer Custom Homes, Inc.; Stonebridge Homes; River Oaks Development Corporation; R.L. Vogel Homes and PGM Builders, Inc.

The depth and breadth of each of these builders ensures Bella Collina’s place as one of Florida’s premier private residential golf communities.

“Imagine a Street of Dreams with eight incredible show homes, each one more than 7,000 square feet in size and priced up to $6 million,” Ashbaugh notes. “Nothing like this has ever been done before in Florida. It will be the real estate event of the year in 2006.”

It’s actually the seventh Street of Dreams event to be held in the Orlando area, including one hosted by prestigious Lake Nona a year ago. But all of these previous occasions, Smith believes, will pale compared to the upcoming Bella Collina affair. According to Smith, the event is expected to draw some 50,000 visitors over a six-week period.

“It’ll be the best ever, No. 1 because of the homes,” adds Smith, whose sales team has 33 lakefront lots left to sell, starting at $1.6 million. ”Normally you have four homes to see. Then you consider the price and size of our homes. …. People will leave with their mouths dropped. People have seen places like Isleworth (where Tiger Woods lives) and Lake Nona (where Ernie Els and Annika Sorenstam have homes), but one of the unique things here is the natural setting.”

It’s a setting that is definitely distinctive, considering Bella Collina’s once rural property features rare elevation of some 160-180 feet, a 350-acre spring-fed lake and the massive 30,000-acre Lake Apopka, Florida’s third-largest lake.

“The way we describe it, it’s the ‘Spirit of Tuscany in the highlands of Florida,’” says Smith, who came to the Ginn Company three years ago after 16 years as the sales manager of Ford’s Colony in Williamsburg, Va. “The very low density makes Bella Collina very special and the topography allows most everybody to have a special view. A lot of communities with 2,000 acres would stuff 5,000 homes on it. This is exciting.”

Eventually, this breathtaking backdrop will feature 801 golf and lake-view homes spread across a generous 1,900 acres, a $25 million championship golf course designed by Nick Faldo, an exquisite $25 million Italianate Clubhouse, a luxurious health and day spa and a world-class equestrian center, among other amenities. When completed by Fall 2007, Bella Collina will be a primary residence community that combines suburban convenience with a spectacular natural setting and the amenities and services of a world-class destination resort – all within 15-20 miles of downtown Orlando.

All of these enticing elements add up to some $750 million in real estate transactions  — including resales by investors — since Celebration, Fla.-based Ginn Clubs & Resorts started marketing Bella Collina in late April 2004.

What’s perhaps most astonishing about Bella Collina’s impressive sales performance is the fact Lake Apopka is regarded by many as one of the most polluted lakes in Florida.

“The government has already spent more than $200 million on cleaning it up,” notes Smith. “They’ve been working on it for more than seven years and they say it’s now 30 percent better than it was before. We believe some day it will be restored.

“You’d be amazed, but very seldom does anybody bring it up. A lot of people buy oceanfront and never go in the water. Plus, the government isn’t going to stop cleaning (Lake Apopka) up.”

Nevertheless, there’s much more to do at Bella Collina than recreate on the shores of Lake Apopka, not the least of which is enjoy what will be one of the country’s most impressive golf clubs. According to former Ginn Company senior executive Randy Lyon, Faldo likened the Bella Collina property to acclaimed Royal Melbourne in Australia. Smith says some four million cubic yards of dirt are being moved to build the course, which already has a waiting list to join. One of Bella Collina’s members is PGA Tour golfer Lee Janzen.

“It should be open by the Fall of ’07,” says Smith, whose club costs $80,000 to join. “We hope to have a few greens open by the end of this year for people to see.”

Another sight to see for sure will be the accompanying $25 million clubhouse. Designed by Marsh & Associates, the architectural firm that did the clubhouse at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe in California and numerous other top-notch clubhouses, Bella Collina’s clubhouse will sit on the highest point of Bella Collina and offer unparalleled vistas by Florida standards.

Says Smith: “One of the Marsh associates said (the Bridges clubhouse) will pale in comparison to this one.”

Throw in millions that are being spent on landscaping the place and tons of open space acreage and leisure trails, and Bella Collina is a sight to behold.

According to Smith, the buzz to start building is starting to become evident.

“Dave Brewer and his associate have talked to a number of investors anxious to start building,” Smith adds. “They’re saying there’s just not enough high-end places to live in the Orlando area. Isleworth is practically sold out; Lake Nona is pretty much sold out. … This is really the next big thing to happen.

“There’s only going to be 801 fortunate families to be able to take advantage of a lifestyle we feel will be unsurpassed. No one’s ever seen anything like this. It’s truly the flagship of our company.”

Some might even describe it as a “Street of Dreams.”

Editor’s Note: This story first was first published in the Winter Edition of Resort Living.

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