BROOKSVILLE — For Brooksville building official Lew Chandler, it was a hopeful sign: Two permits were pulled on Tuesday for new construction at the Cascades at Southern Hills community.
It had been more than two years since the new home permits were issued in the 55-and-older community east of U.S. 41 on the southern edge of Brooksville.
"I'm happy to see it," Chandler said. "Hopefully, it's a signal things are getting better."
John Greer, a partner in CaSHP Homes, which bought the 411-acre subdivision in August, thinks so.
Over the past several months, the company has trimmed its inventory of 36 unsold homes to a point where it's time to build more, he said.
Nationally known builder Lennar Homes has acquired 120 of the sites remaining in the subdivision's initial phase.
Greer says he's gambling that the worst of the recession has passed, and that Hernando County will again become a magnet for retiring baby boomers. He thinks that the Cascades has many of the amenities they are looking for.
"It fits our customer profile," Greer said. "There's good shopping nearby, minimal traffic. It's a nice area that we think people will continue to find attractive."
That's a welcome change to the way things were in the Cascades two years ago when former developer Levitt & Sons filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the tumbling housing market, leaving behind half-finished houses, weed-filled lots and crumbling roads.
In the four years the company operated the subdivision it sold just 26 of the 925 homes it planned to build.
Last August, Greer's Tampa investor group stepped in and bought the project at the bargain price of $2.2 million with the agreement that it would also assume responsibility for $3.2 million in community development district fees owed to a bonding company.
Greer feels that having a quality builder associated with the Cascades is a solid attraction for prospective buyers.
Lennar plans to build villa-style homes ranging from 1,350 to 2,000 square feet with such features as granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and brick paver walks and driveways.
Confident that prices from the $130,000s are comfortably within the range of what a post-recession economy will bear, Greer expects prices to climb steadily with time.
"Real estate is always driven by market conditions, and that's somewhat fragile right now," he said.
Several of the existing Levitt-built homes sold recently for about half of their original asking price.
Although long-term plans call for a second phase that includes an additional 192 lots, Greer said that the subdivision's planned community center will be the responsibility of the residents.
A plot of land has been set aside for a facility should the homeowners' association decide to build it.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or 848-1435.