MARKET SNAPSHOT: Manatee's River Club



River Club is one of Manatee County's most attractive golfing communities. Off State Road 70 about 1.5 miles east of Interstate 75, it extends south toward University Parkway, with the Braden River crossing it at the halfway point. Wrapped by Lakewood Ranch to the east and encompassing more than 1,000 acres, it has five sections with a total of 946 home sites.

Two of the subdivisions, Oakbrooke and Southwood, have maintenance-free villas. The other three have houses ranging from 1,400 to 6,000 square feet. (For a photo gallery, click here.)

When Manatee Joint Ventures' Larry D'Urso — he also created Braden Woods, Mill Creek and Twin Rivers — started the community in 1989, he developed the northern sections first. The last portion, The Sanctuary at River Club, which backs up to Cooper Creek, was built between 2000 and 2004 after Todd Johnston Homes purchased the land. All 168 homes there were built by Johnston and Arthur Rutenberg Homes.

The majority of River Club houses have Mediterranean-inspired architecture. But the earliest sections also have some brick homes in Tudor and contemporary styles.

As a Development of Regional Impact, River Club has many preserves and wetlands that are home to a variety of wildlife. Many of the homes occupy large lots — a half-acre to 2 acres — and most back up to a lake, nature preserves or the golf course.

The par 72-hole championship course designed by Ron Garl is owned by one of the residents of River Club. It offers pay-as-you-play fees for the public and a variety of golf memberships, which include use of the clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts.

In addition, River Club is a designated golf community. Golf carts can be used on all roads except for the main thoroughfare, River Club Boulevard. There are paths throughout for residents to walk and bicycle.

Lisa Mayer, a Realtor for Coldwell Banker, has lived in River Club for 17 years. Having moved from Queens, N.Y., she was something of a pioneer. "When I came here, there were only lakes, dirt and wild boar," she said with a laugh. "Lakewood Ranch next door had only 200 homes; now there are over 8,000."

Mayer has experienced all aspects of River Club. In 1995, she and her husband bought one of the earliest houses behind Braden River Elementary School. Then they built a home on the golf course. Finally, they settled in The Sanctuary, where they are planning to stay.

Mayer loves the area for its neighborly atmosphere. Most residents live there all year; households are a mix of families, working professionals, empty nesters and retirees.

As a Realtor, Mayer has made River Club one of her niche markets, selling a number of homes and, most recently, one of the two remaining empty lots. She has a listing in The Sanctuary at 9907 Old Hyde Park Place, a two-story, Todd Johnston custom-built home with two bedrooms and a bonus room upstairs.

Mayer believes River Club has benefitted greatly from the development of Lakewood Ranch.

"Initially, the appeal was the oak trees, which made it look a little like up north," she said. "Now there's shopping, restaurants, sports facilities, the hospital and schools."

The 140-acre Premier Sports Campus supports a variety of events, including soccer, lacrosse, archery, Ultimate Frisbee, the Special Olympics and youth football. The Sarasota Polo Grounds are close by, as is the world-class rowing course being built at Nathan Benderson Park.

Lakewood Ranch's Main Street and San Marco Plaza are just down the road, and everyone is looking forward to the mall being built at University Town Center. Travel to Tampa International Airport is an easy 45-minute commute, and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is only 15 minutes away.

Because it was developed before the housing boom and bust, River Club is a more stable community than some of the surrounding areas. "Residents have more equity in their property. There are fewer people upside-down here," Mayer said.

In 2012, only 14 percent of the homes that sold in River Club were short sales and bank-owned properties, in contrast to 29 percent for the entire zip code. Last year, there were 56 sales with an average price of $366,746. Only 12 homes are on the market, ranging from $214,999 to $775,000.

Mayer said she expects River Club to continue to be a popular neighborhood. "We have so many things here — clean, comfortable, interesting living. Anywhere else in the country, you have to pay a lot more for that."

Last modified: December 22, 2012
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