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Dallas-based real estate group buys Pasco's Connerton community

Connerton, the 4,800-acre distressed new town that ceased operations last year and was put up for sale, has been bought by a national real estate development group based in Dallas.

CoastOak Group, which also claims the same hometown as Terrabrook, Connerton's previous owner, expressed interest in the development in January.

The sales price for the property was $5.6 million, but other terms, including the assumption of debt, make that not quite a true figure, said Greg McGowan, managing principal of CoastOak.

McGowan said the plan is to fulfill the original vision for the community.

"Connerton is a cornerstone of Pasco County's future growth plans, and we expect the community to be a leader in the Tampa Bay region for many years to come," he said. "We want to relaunch the project in full."

CoastOak says it plans to have a grand reopening of the development soon, with events scheduled for the rest of 2010.

According to CoastOak's website, coastoakgroup.com, the group was founded in 2008 and invests in distressed residential markets. It has eight projects nationwide, including one in the Ocala area and another near Orlando.

It focuses on geographic areas with certain characteristics:

• Fundamentally sound and diversified economic drivers leading to inevitable long-term growth.

• Recent volatility in home prices and absorption leading to market dislocation.

• A predictable supply pattern in the mid- to long-term, often due to increasing scarcity of developable land, environmental/development restrictions or an arduous approval process.

E-mails exchanged in January between local land use attorney Ben Harrill and county officials outlined changes that CoastOak wants to make to development agreements, including postponing the completion of the first phase from 2013 to 2015.

It also proposed eliminating specific deadlines for completing roads within the community and the Collier Parkway extension to Ehren Cutoff.

Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein replied that it would be difficult for the county to agree to the proposal without specifics on how many homes would have to be built to trigger the required road improvements.

Built atop the former Conner cattle ranch, Connerton fits in a rough triangle formed by State Road 52, U.S. 41 and Ehren Cutoff in Land O'Lakes.

Its two main selling points have been 3,000 acres of nature preserve that adjoin the property and a town center with offices, stores and schools that residents could walk to. Interlocking nature trails would knit together the 7,000 to 8,000 homes.

CoastOak said Wednesday that approximately 8,500 residential units are planned with more than 3 million square feet of commercial space for office, retail and industrial uses.

The community currently features completed amenities including onsite shopping, a long-term acute care hospital, a new elementary school opening this fall, Club Connerton, and miles of walking trails, boardwalks, neighborhood parks and conservation areas. A hospital, medical offices, a regional park, three schools and a town center are also planned.

"Connerton is an example of the kind of development we want and need in Pasco County," County Commission Chairwoman Pat Mulieri said in the release. "I am excited to hear that CoastOak will continue to take the project forward."

CoastOak has employed several of the senior executives of the previous Connerton development team. Stew Gibbons, former president of Connerton who was laid off when it shut down, is the new president for the Southeast Region for CoastOak Group. Chip Jones, the senior vice president for development, and Pete Boudreau, the vice president for finance, have also joined the firm.

"I am very pleased that Coast­Oak was able to acquire Connerton," said Gibbons. "We are delighted to join CoastOak and be part of re-opening the community and helping it realize its full potential."

CoastOak acquired Connerton in partnership with Hayman Woods, LLC, a Dallas-based private equity firm focused on the U.S. real estate market.

FAST FACTS

About CoastOak Group

CoastOak Group is a national developer and operator of residential communities and mixed-use projects. It was formed in 2008 by its managing principals, Don Carroll and Greg McGowan.
CoastOak employs seasoned veterans from leading land development companies and real estate investment firms. The firm currently operates projects in nine markets across the country. For more information on CoastOak Group, visit coastoakgroup.com.

Dallas-based real estate group buys Pasco's Connerton community 05/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:49pm]
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