There may not be an ocean near Dallas or Austin. But that doesn't mean there can't be a Margaritaville.
Following the successful launch of their Latitude Margaritaville 55-and-up communities in three other locations, master developer Minto Communities USA and Margaritaville Holdings, singer Jimmy Buffett's hospitality company, are now scouting for a fourth site in Texas.
After forming a partnership in 2017, the two companies have developed Latitude Margaritavilles in Daytona Beach, Florida, and near Hilton Head, South Carolina, and, most recently, near Panama City Beach at Latitude Margaritaville Watersound where they joined The St. Joe Company. Minto, the builder at Margaritaville, is a builder and manager of homes, rental properties and commercial space with a presence in Canada and the southern United States.
"We were actively looking at land [in Texas]," Minto Latitude Margaritaville Division President William Bullock told Construction Dive. "I've been there multiple times over the last couple of months. My whole team was out in Dallas this week, as a matter of fact. So we're in hot pursuit."
Building the Margaritaville lifestyle
But what about the maritime atmosphere? While the Margaritaville lifestyle, popularized by Buffett's classic song, is closely associated with being near the ocean, Bullock said these active adult communities don't need to be located near the water to provide the amenities, including the food, music and escapism, that is central to the brand.
In fact, this summer the 32-story, 234-room Margaritaville Resort Times Square opened in New York City. The property includes five restaurants and bar options, including the Margaritaville Restaurant, LandShark Bar & Grill and 5 o'Clock Somewhere Rooftop Bar. There is also a fitness center and Margaritaville brand retail store.
At Latitude Margaritaville, the town center serves as the epicenter of the casual living experience.
"We feel very confident that we can bring the brand to those markets and not necessarily have to have the beach in your backyard," Bullock said. "When you go to one of our town centers, we have pools, music in the afternoons at the bar and restaurant. We've got concerts at night where all of the community comes together. Nobody's doing that in these Texas markets. The escapism will be successful in those markets without the direct connection to the beach."
And Bullock thinks a lot of Texans might want to retire at a Margaritaville Latitude. "The Metroplex in Dallas has 15 million people," he said. "Houston has 10 million. There are plenty of people who want to retire in those markets."
Sunshine State Growth
While Texas holds a lot of obvious appeal for Minto Communities and Margaritaville Holdings, the companies, along with St. Joe, still have a lot of work to do at their project, Latitude Margaritaville Watersound, on Northwest Florida's Emerald Coast near Panama City Beach and the Highway 30A corridor.
In April, the developers opened 13 model homes at Latitude Margaritaville Watersound. Right now, 130 homes are under construction and closings are expected to begin this month. They have sold 300 homes to date and are expecting 450 through the end of the year.
At Latitude Margaritaville Watersound's town center, where construction recently started, the amenities include an amphitheater, a full-size concert stage, a jumbo screen for concerts and movies, tennis, pickleball courts, a fitness center with an indoor pool and spa and the Barkaritaville Dog Park. It will also include themed dining options including a two-story Bar & Chill restaurant overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, Changes in Attitude Bar and Overlook Bar.
"The panhandle is a top destination for retirees and the beaches are unparalleled," Bullock said. "We're close to the beach here. You've literally got the water at the edge of the property and that creates scenic views like you've ever seen."
But those 450 homes are only the tip of the iceberg. Minto Communities and Margaritaville Holdings have 3,500 units entitled at Latitude Margaritaville Watersound. The development sits inside St. Joe's mammoth Bay-Walton Sector Plan, encompassing approximately 110,500 acres and about 15 miles of frontage on the Intracoastal Waterway.
"The pure scale of the number of entitlements that are still ahead of us is unlike anything I've ever seen," Bullock said. "Even at The Villages [retirement community in Florida], I don't think they're talking about 150,000 entitlements. So we're going to be there for a long time. I think we've kind of got Florida covered."
That said, if he had the choice, Bullock would also take the Latitude Margaritaville further south. But that's probably not in the cards in the near future. For a development to work, Bullock needs about 1,500 to 1,700 acres for 3,000 to 3,500 units. Anything less than that and it’s hard to make the numbers pencil out.
"I'd like to see something in South Florida," Bullock said. "But it's hard to find land that will support what we need."