Despite hurricanes, a recession, a devastating oil spill and environmental obstacles, Curt Boisfontaine refused to give up his dream of building a luxury condominium on Perdido Key.
On Thursday that dream will come true when the Texas developer breaks ground on the rebuilding of Vista Del Mar, the condominium destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and eventually razed. Prices start at $715,000 for smallest units at 1,958 square feet and go well over $1 million for largest units of 4 and 5 bedroom units at 3,100 square feet.
The $60 million, nine-story project features 64 luxury units with views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Nearly 50 of the 64 units are sold.
Attending the ceremony will be a cadre of local real estate brokers, developers and local politicians, including Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill, whose District 2 includes Perdido Key.
“I’m glad to see the construction getting under way now that we’ve gotten the Habitat Conservation Plan in place,” Underhill said. “I think the construction you’re about to see on the key is responsible construction.
“It’s a good balance between the way of life and the wildlife that we’re really trying to strike out there on the key,” he said.
The enactment of the county’s Habitat Conservation Plan last year, Underhill said, helps protect the endangered Perdido Key beach mouse while paving the way for new developments like Vista Del Mar, the first condo built on the key since well before Hurricane Ivan.
Local officials and federal wildlife experts agreed to the plan after several years of negotiations.
“I’m looking forward to the Vista Del Mar construction taking place, the jobs that will be created and the tax revenues that will come to Escambia County,” Underhill said.
Longtime Perdido Key real estate broker Peter King said the launch of the $60 million Vista Del Mar bodes well for the overall economy of the key and Southwestern Escambia County.
“From a business aspect, I look at Vista Del Mar a lot like stock brokers and commodities traders look at the futures markets,” King said.
“Because the completion of its construction is 18 months in the future, the people buying into Vista Del Mar also are sending a tremendous signal to the market, and to other developers, that this is the type of quality construction that will be in demand two or three years down the road,” King said.
Boisfontaine’s development company, Meridian Realty Advisors, proposed rebuilding Vista del Mar in 2006 but the project was sidelined by the national recession in 2008.
Now, however, he sees a better economy, as evidenced by the strong pre-construction sales at Vista.
Nearly 50 of the planned 64 units have been sold, he said.
“Meridian and the whole Vista del Mar family have waited patiently for the market to recover sufficiently to support a new project,” said Boisfontaine. “We have had a truly remarkable response.”
King said the Vista Del Mar project will help alleviate what he describes as a maxed-out Perdido Key rental market that’s been growing at an annual rate of 15 percent over the past three years.
In recent conversations he’s had with other developers and property owners on the key, King said there are strong indications that Vista Del Mar is the first of probably three or four similar large-scale projects on the key that will launch on within the next six to 12 months.
Another interesting aspect of the Vista Del Mar project, King said, is that the property will be served by Pensacola Energy, the City of Pensacola’s natural gas company.
That natural gas line will be the first ever built to serve the key.
Despite the strong demand for more condo units on the key, there is little if any interest among developers in building a hotel.
Prior to Ivan the key’s lone hotel was a Quality Inn that was destroyed by the storm. That property remains vacant.
Underhill said the lack of interest in building a hotel due largely to the property owners and small business owners’ desire to maintain the family-friendly atmosphere on the key.