BY BUDDY NEVINS
The real estate market may in the toilet, but that doesn’t stop developers from dreaming.
The latest big dream is Destiny. Boy, is it a BIG DREAM.
At Yeehaw Junction and Florida’s Turnpike, Delray Beach developer Anthony Pugliese is planning the community of Destiny.
When its built out, Destiny will be 65-square miles more than twice as big as Fort Lauderdale’s 31 square miles.
Developers want to eventually house 250,000 residents on what is now one of the last big piece of developable property- mainly cattle ranches – between here and Orlando.
Pugliese promises that Destiny will be filled with miles of navigable lakes, biking and hiking paths, natural preserves, a city center surrounded by water and sustainable energy sources.
Environmentalist like the sound of that. But they are skeptical.
So am I.
“To me the key is that conservation promises have to be made upfront. That will be the hallmark of success or failure, Charles Lee of the Audubon Society told the Orlando Sentinel.
I have lived long enough in Florida to hear all types of promises. A promised trade fair site becomes a dump. Parks ended up as housing. Broward’s golf courses become condominiums.
Sadly in the end, the only sure bet in Florida is that developers will win.
As developers’ lobbyist Don McClosky once quipped: “The state symbol should be a concrete block.”
The state should have bought the land. What a magnificent nature preserve it would have made!
The state, however, can’t match the deep pockets of the development crowd.
The land comes from 100,000 acres that rancher Latimer Maxcy once owned. Three years ago, Latt Maxcy Co. sold an initial 27,400 acres to Pugliese for $5,000 an acre, or $137 million. The state, which views much of the land as pristine, couldn’t compete.
For a guy who can plunk down $137 million on some scrub land, Pugliese hasn’t been a real generous campaign donor. That might be a complication.
The reality is that you’ve got to give donations if you want to have an easier time with regulatory agencies.
In 2006, Pugliese and his companies gave $4,000 to Gov. Charlie Crist and Randy Johnson, who ran a losing race for the state’s chief financial officer. Contrast that with developer Ron Bergeron, who gave more than $25,000 that same year to state candidates and thousands more to local candidates.
Pugliese’s destiny is to step up his campaign donations. Or else Destiny may remain just a dream.
That would be fine with me.