Builder Revamps Boca Housing Development

A Fort Lauderdale builder is back selling homes in Boca Raton, three years after scuttling its development amid the historic housing collapse.

Stiles Corp. opens Centra to buyers at 10 a.m. Saturday. The retooled project, a mile west of Interstate 95 off Yamato Road, will consist of nearly 200 townhouses priced from $239,900 to $363,900.

That’s far less expensive than the previous price tags: $675,000 to more than $1 million for 172 single-family homes and townhouses. Stiles broke ground on the development, then known as Reserve at Blue Lake, in March 2007, only to pull the plug once the housing market nosedived.

“We basically relooked at the entire project in light of the present market conditions,” said Harry Posin, a veteran South Florida homebuilder who is working on Centra with Stiles as a joint venture. “There’s certainly evidence that well-designed and well-marketed projects are achieving good sales. The market is stabilized.”

Many builders still are hurting as the downturn stretches into a fifth year, but a few are boosting their bottom lines as buyers realize they can move into a new home for roughly the same price as a foreclosure. And local housing analysts agree that Stiles stands to benefit from that mindset at Centra.

“There’s no question that it now has a better chance of success,” said Lewis Goodkin, a Miami housing consultant.

Some housing followers say home sales will crater now that the deadline has passed for two federal tax credits, but others aren’t convinced of that. Besides, they say, many of the young professionals and empty nesters being targeted at Centra aren’t so dependent on government help.

“I don’t think the buyer at this location is as sensitive to the tax credits as buyers in other locations might be,” said Brad Hunter of the Metrostudy research firm in Palm Beach Gardens.

Stiles Corp., headed by Terry Stiles, is known more for its signature office buildings and shopping centers, but its residential portfolio includes the Sunrise Harbor waterfront condominiums in Fort Lauderdale and townhouses and single-family homes in Naples.

The two-, three- and four-bedroom Centra townhouses will be two stories and have granite kitchen countertops, energy-efficient appliances, impact-resistant windows and two-car garages. The project is approved by the Federal Housing Administration, meaning buyers can get FHA mortgages with minimum down payments of 3.5 percent.

In remaking the development, Stiles trotted out a new marketing plan. Fliers feature an orange and lime green color scheme. And the model names have a decidedly fruity feel: citrus, papaya, mango, kiwi and guava.

“We want to get people excited about buying new homes again,” sales manager Gretchen Stoudt said.

Construction on the balance of the development has yet to begin, but Stiles built seven models — six units and a single-family home — under the previous design in 2007. They’ll be sold later.

Those townhouses are three stories and have vastly different floor plans, said Posin, a former executive with Minto Communities in Coconut Creek and now president of Label & Co. Developments Inc. in Fort Lauderdale.