By: Chris Eversole
Area builders and developers have mixed feelings about the state of their industry.
On the one hand, they’re relieved that activity is picking up. On the other hand, they contend that government is forcing development patterns down their throats.
Homebuilder Kara Bolton talks about the uptick like this: “The disaster is over, but the recovery and cleanup continues. We’re still licking our wounds.”
The gradual turnaround is a relief from the struggles of the past five years, says Bolton, who is the president of the Builders Association of North Central Florida.
“We had to cut our staff, and we were about ready to pawn our children and pawn our jewelry,” she says.
Bolton says she’s frustrated about Alachua County Government’s policies favoring “new urbanism,” which encourages small home lots and tall multi-family buildings—with stores nestled in between.
“People are very resistant to the urban lifestyle. We don’t have enough concentration to support these types of development,” she says. “In a decade of selling over 200 homes, I’ve only had one buyer who was concerned about being able to bike to work.”
Bolton was among the speakers at the recent University of Florida Bergstrom Center Real Estate Forum.
Today’s optimism is a welcome relief, says forum moderator Todd Rainsberger of Coldwell Banker Commercial M.M. Parrish Realtors. “In the last few years, we were searching to seeds of optimism at these forums, and we had to search pretty hard.”