Market Snapshot: Gran Paradiso in North Port


Gran Paradiso more than lives up to its name. Everything about the revived, maintenance-free development spells extravagance, opulent living and natural beauty on a grand scale — with the exception of the houses and attached villas, which are handsome and elegant but by no means over the top.

Photo gallery: See more images from Gran Paradiso

The entrance to Gran Paradiso's clubhouse. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

The entrance to Gran Paradiso's clubhouse. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

A central island lined with majestic palm trees leads up to the Tuscan-style entrance gate and clubhouse, which would look at home in a Cecil B. DeMille epic. Fitness trails meander around the lakes and through nature preserves. The community abuts a protected gopher tortoise conservation area. Sandhill cranes, deer and other wildlife abound.

The gated community in the West Villages of North Port sits on the north side of U.S. 41, about three miles south of Venice. It was master-planned by Sam Rodgers in the mid-2000s. It was an ambitious development, with 1,999 units situated on more than 370 acres. Rodgers put in the streets, ponds, utilities and other infrastructure, and, along with Lee Wetherington Homes, put up models and started to build semi-custom, luxury residences.

The timing could not have been worse, however, as the ambitious housing development succumbed to the Great Recesssion. Grand Paradiso remained mostly empty and fell into disrepair. For more than half a decade, the landscaping consisted of overgrown weeds that became habitat to all kinds of critters, including wild boars and the occasional Florida panther. The handful of owners who initially bought and built there were less than pleased.

That changed in early 2014 when Lennar Corp., the Miami-based company that is one of the nation’s largest home builders, bought the development. Lennar paid $26.6 million for the 370 acres of Gran Paradiso and paid off the back taxes and assessments owed. It also purchased 164 lots from Lee Wetherington Homes for $4 million.

Sam Rodgers Homes' Riviera II model at Gran Paradiso. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 7-9-2015.

Sam Rodgers Homes' Riviera II model at Gran Paradiso. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

In the past year and a half, Lennar finished the clubhouse, opened a sales center and has been busy selling properties and building new homes.

“I’ve seen such a huge improvement,” says Amy Terzuoli, a sales associate with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty. “Homes are selling like hotcakes. The area is really taking off.”

Terzuoli is the listing agent for one of the few resale properties available in the community — one of the four original attached luxury villas that Sam Rodgers Homes built. The three-bedroom former model has lavish interiors. With Florida Green Building Coalition and Energy Star certifications for energy efficiency, it is priced at $359,000.

But most of the residences are new construction. Lennar offers single-family homes, luxury estate homes, maintenance-free villas, coach or manor homes, and townhouses — all in Tuscan style relating to the overall architectural theme of Gran Paradiso. They range in size from three to five bedrooms and from 1,340 to 3,800 square feet. Luxury features include granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, crown molding, brick pavers and more. Prices range from the $200,000s to $600,000s.

Arthur Rutenberg Homes' Messina model at Gran Paradiso. Sam Rodgers Properties is the ARH franchise holder there. Staff photo / Harold Bubil; 7-9-2015.

Arthur Rutenberg Homes' Messina model at Gran Paradiso. Sam Rodgers Properties is the ARH franchise holder there. (Staff photo / Harold Bubil)

Sam Rodgers and its Arthur Rutenberg franchise are still involved, offering semi-custom built homes ranging from $389,000 to more than $900,000.

“It’s a wide range of price points — something for everyone,” says Terzuoli.

Each section has its own homeowner’s association plus a master fee. Dues for the houses are $1,855 and include all community amenities, basic cable, and lawn maintenance. Villas, coach and townhomes dues are $250 to $300 a month and also include landscaping.

Amenities include tennis courts, pickle ball courts, and a free-form swimming pool with poolside cabanas. The magnificent clubhouse has lofty ceilings and game rooms with billiards and card tables, a media center, a sauna and a steam room, a massaging room, and a big, ultra-modern fitness center. There are plans to hire an onsite activities director.

“Gran Paradiso has a full-time resort atmosphere,” says Terzuoli. “It feels like being on vacation all the time.”

The growing number of residents include working professionals, retirees and families. “Residents are primarily baby boomers — a lot of people from up north who are done with the snow and ready to make the big move to Florida,” says Terzuoli. “There are also a number of younger families with children.”

The West Villages is an up-and-coming area, close to the Gulf beaches, nearby championship golf courses, and within easy, 10-minute reach of Interstate 75. “When the Town Center gets further developed, there will be shops and restaurants close-by,” says Terzuoli. “There’s something here for all age groups.”

She expects it will take around seven years for the community to be fully built-out. “It’s great to be able to be in an affordable place in a nice country club-like setting,” she says. “Every time I go there, I get a good vibe.”

Last modified: July 17, 2015
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