BRADENTON — An innovative development team has blended a residential concept with access to one of the most famous sport training complexes in the world.
At a time when a lot of builders are laying off workers, scrambling for funding and often postponing groundbreakings, Ruben-Holland Development LLC -- the force behind Legends Bay at IMG Academy -- started working last year on the new west Bradenton community.
Wayne Ruben knows the development business well: He was Benderson Development Co.'s partner in charge of Florida operations in the early part of this decade, before striking out to form Ruben-Holland.
His experience in development and construction extends to land acquisition, project management consulting, securing governmental approvals, negotiating sale and purchase agreements, and overseeing architectural design.
Ruben-Holland, a Sarasota-based company with more than 65 years of combined experience in construction and development, has developed projects for local and state entities, national big box and regional retailers, national construction companies, home builders and real estate brokers throughout Florida.
The company's local projects include Park Plaza and The Landings at Parkview, a mixed-use residential community near State Road 64 in Manatee County to be anchored by Lakewood Ranch Toyota.
Ruben-Holland also developed The Shoppes at Laurel Square on Laurel Road in Venice.
Legends Bay, as the name suggests, is close to the 300-acre IMG Academy campus, at 5500 34th St. W., as well as to Sarasota Bay.
That is one of Legend's big draws for families with students at the sports training mecca, figures Wayne Ruben, one of the development company's partners.
LPGA luminary Paula Creamer, who used to be a student athlete at IMG, already has bought a custom property at Legends Bay to be built by Gibraltar Homes, says Albert Sanchez, the home builder's president.
The draw -- they hope
IMG is an advanced multisport training and education operation founded by famous tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, delivering sports training to junior, collegiate, adult and professional athletes.
The operation and its on-campus private academic school lures students from all over the United States and 75 countries, preparing them for college admission and athletic recruitment.
The hope is that the high-end, single-family villas, custom waterfront homes and coach homes that will be built by Gilbraltar and Arthur Rutenberg Homes/M. Pete McNabb Inc. will also prove attractive.
Gibraltar Homes' Sanchez signed onto the project in 2005 at a time when "we were all less careful with what we were willing to pay for land.
"Wayne and Roger are sophisticated investors and developers, and they could see the draw of the location near IMG and all the amenities it has to offer," Sanchez said.
"There is nothing else like it near IMG, and they had the financial strength to pull it off," he said.
Before committing to Legends, Sanchez analyzed the project and concluded that "the waterfront location would attract local professionals, doctors and lawyers, too, not just the parents of athletes who would spend six to eight months in residence."
Legends Bay at IMG Academy will offer some unusual amenities, including the standard concierge services and a community clubhouse with a pool and meeting room.
Residents will also have a private membership at IMG Academy Golf and Country Club, and access to the academies, where they can enjoy certain amenities previously reserved for athletes.
IMG Academy also offers the possibility of enrollment at one of three academic schools: The IMG Academy School, Bradenton Preparatory Academy and Saint Stephen's Episcopal School, as well as online and college courses through the University of Miami.
In the past year, Ruben-Holland, an equal partnership between Ruben and Roger Holland, already has spent about $50 million on Legends Bay, some of it from lines of credit with Wachovia Bank.
On any given day dozens of contractors and workers can be seen at the site, unlike at many other developments that appear frozen in time by the troubled housing market.
The plans call for 37 bayfront lots and 152 other lots within a gated entrance, for a total of 189 single-family homes.
An affiliated development of coach homes called Legends Cove will consist of 60 luxury homes with floor plans ranging from 2,088 to 2,722 square feet. They will offer two or three bedrooms, plus a den.
Legends Cove, adjacent to the Legends Bay main entrance, will have prices ranging from the $600,000s to the $700,000s for multifamily units and from the $700,000s to more than $5 million for single-family homes.
The homes use Spanish Revival and Venetian architecture.
Ruben hopes all that attracts buyers, though his main hope is people embrace "the lifestyle."
Derek Nelson, president of Arthur Rutenberg/M. Pete McNabb, said the Legends and IMG dynamic creates what he termed a "micro-economy of buyers."
The thinking appears to be that if the buyers' children are going to IMG, these families are likely "insulated" from the broader economy.
Nelson's homes start in the $1.5 million range, and he has sold several recently.
"It's a unique product, and we're sold on the community and its special relationship with IMG," Nelson said.
Ruben figures the Legends build-out value -- however long that takes in the current housing market -- is about $300 million.