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Parkway plans have Hernando builders hopping

This year, visitors to the Hernando Builders Association's Parade of Homes will have to travel on local roads _ U.S. 19, Spring Hill Drive, U.S. 41.

Next year, it may be expressway all the way.

The Suncoast Parkway, which will make it possible to drive between Tampa International Airport and parts of Hernando County in half an hour or so _ half the time it now takes _ has an exit ramp just east of the gated entrance to Pristine Place, the subdivision that is hosting the Parade of Homes.

Twelve homes by 10 local builders are on view for the two-week showcase of new construction that starts at 10 a.m. today.

And like many others in Hernando County, the builders are pinning their hopes for the future on the Parkway.

"We're starting to get interest from people looking from the south because of the new highway. It's a great asset to be able to get right on the expressway" virtually at the entrance to Pristine Place, said developer Lew Friedland. Right nearby "there's a new drugstore, a new shopping and grocery center. Those are all good things for us."

Pristine Place has always attracted a mix of younger working families with children and retirees, Friedland said. "It's always been about half and half."

But interest seems renewed with the promise of ready access to communities to the south.

"I know of at least six sales directly due to the parkway being completed this year or early next year," said Ron Bock, vice president of Lexington Homes. "People want to have the suburban type of life but they couldn't afford the time to drive to their jobs. Now they are seeing that, yes, this is going to be exactly what they want."

Lexington is showing its Monterey model, four bedrooms, living room, dining room and study in 2,636 square feet of living space. The master bath has a garden tub in the center of the room and a walk-around shower. The home's base price of $154,900 does not include the pool and waterfall or the homesite.

Lots in Pristine Place start in the low $20,000s, Friedland said. The parade models are in a newly opened third phase of the development, a gated section within the gated community. Pristine Place has hosted the Parade of Homes fully or partly for five of the last six years.

"Houses are getting bigger, there are more amenities, more pools, kitchens and baths are fancier these days," Friedland observed. "People are demanding more of that. The economy has been very good. The economy is generating more money and people are spending it on their homes."

Scott Nicoletti is showing his Tradewinds model, "an upgrade to a proven winner," he said. "I'm one of those guys who hates to look at a house and see nothing but a garage. Most people don't use a three-car garage for three cars. They use one of the bays for the golf cart, the lawn mower, the bikes, the tool shop, this, that and the other." So he has created a stacking garage, with two cars side by side and a third car pulled in ahead. That third space can be accessed via six-foot double doors on the side that easily let a golf cart or riding mower in and out. Or this area can be transformed into a fourth bedroom or den. The house has 1,970 square feet and sells for a base price of $105,990 plus homesite.

The builders' biggest complaint this year is scheduling delays caused by a shortage of subcontractors in this booming economy. "We're having to wait a little longer to get the guys to do the job," Nicoletti said. "Good subs are in big demand and they're sticking with their primary builder. I can name you a dozen subs who won't take on another builder. They're at capacity, they've got all the business they can handle.

Potential buyers need to press their builder about the people he's hiring, Nicoletti said. "If a builder has to scramble and find subs he hasn't used before, who's he going to get? If I can say, "My subs have been with me for five, six, 10 years,' that lends a lot of credibility."