Wasting away in Margaritaville: Jimmy Buffett-inspired project to sell new PCB homes soon

Nathan Cobb
The News Herald

PANAMA CITY BEACH — A wave of new residents soon will flock to the Beach, and all will be at least 55 years old. 

As of Wednesday, the sound of tractors, bulldozers and other heavy equipment filled the air along State 79 near its intersection with State 388 as crews worked to construct Latitude Margaritaville Watersound, a 3,500-home project for people 55 years old and older — inspired by the beach lifestyle of pop singer Jimmy Buffett's laid-back music.

Scheduled for homes to hit the market in May, the development is being built through a partnership between the St. Joe Company, Margaritaville Holdings and Minto Communities USA, a full-service development group based in Tampa that constructs lifestyle-based communities.

More:Construction underway for Latitude Margaritaville community in Bay County

After about a year of construction, the first homes in Latitude Margaritaville Watersound are slated to hit the market in May.

"I'm pleased we were able to couple the Latitude Margaritaville vision with (St. Joe's) vision because what we're embarking on here is one of the most exciting and probably one of the largest development opportunities in the United States," said William Bullock, president of the Minto division of Latitude Margaritaville. "I can't think of a better place in Florida than where we're doing it."

Bullock added that there are about 500 homes under construction in various stages of development. He expected it to take up to seven years to build the thousands of homes slated for the property. 

About 500 homes are under construction along State 79 as part of Latitude Margaritaville Watersound, an upcoming community for people 55 years old and older.

The homes will feature two or three bedrooms and range from about 1,200 square feet to almost 3,000 square feet. They will be listed from $230,000 to about $420,000. 

The Bay County site is Minto's third Latitude location, with others already garnering success in Daytona Beach and Hilton Head, South Carolina, Bullock said. The group also has four other unrelated but similar developments in Florida. 

More:Latitude Margaritaville hits goal of breaking ground by end of 2019

More (2018):Locals: Latitude Margaritaville will boost tourism — and traffic

"Once this thing spins up like it's starting to ... the bulldozers are always out in front of you," Bullock said. "We may have 500 lots under construction right now, (but) we may crank that up to 600 or 700 so that always, every year from here going forth, there'll be a consistent, reoccurring supply of finished lots so that we can build houses and develop and deliver product to the consumers."

Along with boosting the local economy by drawing retired residents, the project will benefit the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), which is located less that 10 miles away. 

The homes being built at Latitude Margaritaville Watersound will feature two or three bedrooms and range from about 1,200 square feet to almost 3,000 square feet. They will be listed from $230,000 to about $420,000.

With the goal of developing the airport based on demand rather than committing to expansions before they're necessary, Parker McClellan, executive director of ECP, said he anticipates Latitude Margaritaville will have a big impact on the airport's future. 

"The development is ideally positioned around the airport so that the residents ... will have the opportunity to take advantage of the travel in and out of ECP," McClellan said. "It will expand our season ... so that we are more of a 12-month destination rather than a six- or seven-month destination."

Latitude Margaritaville Watersound tours could begin in April.

According to a press release, those interested in Latitude Margaritaville can register to tour the community's sales center and more than a dozen model homes from April 3-24 by calling 866-609-8713. 

They also can reserve a spot for a random drawing May 1 that will be livestreamed and determine the order of how homes will be sold. The virtual format is a precaution Bullock said he believes is necessary in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I know we all read that vaccinations are occurring and caseloads are going down, and those are all huge positives, but we felt due to our buyer demographic of 55 and better ... a traditional grand opening ... was not the right thing to do," he said.