Make us your home page

Wesley Chapel's Bridgewater tries a pitching edge to find buyers

With 70 percent of its homes vacant or rented at one point, Wesley Chapel’s Bridgewater is now half owner-occupied.


With 70 percent of its homes vacant or rented at one point, Wesley Chapel’s Bridgewater is now half owner-occupied.

WESLEY CHAPEL — When Bobby Martin suggested his homeowners association hire a public relations firm to help pull his neighborhood from the pit of plummeting property values, his fellow board members responded with skepticism.

"It was initially shot down," said Martin, a 31-year-old financial planner who moved to the Bridgewater community in 2005. But after listening to his pitch — that the move would put the 760-home Lennar community ahead of others in the competition to rebound from the housing collapse — they embraced the idea.

So Martin brought in Jack Glasure, a buddy he met through a networking group, to market Bridgewater to families in hopes of filling the vacant and rental homes with owners. Glasure, a graduate of Saint Leo University, works for French West Vaughan, a North Carolina firm with an office in Ybor City. Its clients include such national brands as Wrangler and Coca-Cola. Closer to home, it represents the troubled BayWalk shopping center in St. Petersburg.

Both the association and the firm are touting the relationship as a first. Glasure said if it works, he hopes to take the plan to other communities facing similar challenges.

Residents are relying on the public relations firm to fill the void left after developers and their professional marketers left. The community is reaching out to relocation services and real estate agents and plans to host a fall festival next month that will be open to the public.

A key goal is to heighten awareness during the weeks before Nov. 30, when the window closes on the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers.

"There's a competition, and we want Bridgewater to be the winner," said Mark Spector, president of the homeowners association.

Back from the brink

Since he moved from California to the neighborhood off Curley Road in 2005, many of the homes plunged into foreclosure as the housing market collapsed.

"For rent" signs, unkempt lawns, dirty mailboxes and trash marred the appearance of the development, which had homes selling for more than $300,000 during the housing boom. Most sell for half that or less now.

Spector said at the lowest point a couple of years ago, about 70 percent of the homes were empty or rented.

Today, about half are owner-occupied.

Neighbors credit Spector, a pharmacologist who commutes to St. Petersburg every day and focuses almost single-mindedly on his neighborhood at night, with the turnaround.

As president of the homeowners association, he helped broker a deal with Bright House Networks that ended bulk billing and let individuals buy cable services. The contract was bleeding the association, he said.

He also spearheaded some moves, such as a one-time special assessment of $250 per home and enacting a $400 transfer fee that goes to the association when a sale is closed.

"Those didn't make me the most popular guy," he said.

But it took the homeowners association, which teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, off life support.

Touting its strengths

The group also fired its property managers and took on the task itself, mowing overgrown lawns and filing liens afterward. It also plans to convert some of the basketball courts to tennis courts after Spector said the tennis courts were appraised at higher values.

The deal with French West Vaughan cost the association a total of about $5,000, Spector said. Not cheap, but a steal given that many firms start at $10,000 a month.

The firm is marketing the development's strengths, such as its proximity to the 1-year-old Shops at Wiregrass, the views of its 18 man-made lakes and its dog park, an unusual amenity in local communities.

Also in the works is an open house. Bridgewater volunteers also want to have booths at community events to get the word out.

"One of the activities the PR firm feels we need to take on is healing the community from within," Spector wrote in a letter to rally the troops. "Well, we all need to pull together to make things better. We can't wait for someone else to fix all of our issues. We have to step up and fix them ourselves."

Spector is correct, say housing experts and another public relations executive. Without a top-quality community, a public relations campaign will fall flat.

"Given the current conditions and all the various problems with the market and specific areas, they as well as home builders are facing a very, very strong headwind," said housing analyst Marvin Rose.

John Heagney, who owns a public relations firm and has represented a host of builders and developers, said Bridgewater residents should make sure they can deliver the goods when people get past the brochures.

"A PR campaign is only as good as the product you're trying to sell," he said.

"Sizzle is one thing. Steak is something else."

Martin thinks the firm can deliver.

"They've reviewed it and it's achievable," he said.

Lisa Buie can be reached at or (813) 909-4604.

Wesley Chapel's Bridgewater tries a pitching edge to find buyers 10/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 12, 2009 8:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]