Good things are happening in northern Venice and eastern Nokomis. Jacaranda Boulevard now connects directly to parts south, and the completion of Honore Road just west of the Laurel Road entrance to Interstate 75 offers an alternative travel route north.
As a result, there is considerable development. “North Venice is a sleeper area that is coming awake, and Laurel is turning into a hub now,” says Charryl Youman, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty. “The area is really taking off. The new Publix shopping center there is bustling, with a great new Italian restaurant, take-out Asian food, and more.”
One of the communities benefiting from the boom is Willow Chase, an upscale, gated neighborhood just east of I-75. Started in 2006, it was on hiatus during the housing crisis, but came into its own after the recovery. Built out in 2014, it consists of 143 single family homes on 63 acres with several scenic lakes and large nature preserves.
“It’s a hidden gem, a real surprise. You go through the gates and say, ‘Wow, this is really lovely. I didn’t know it existed,’ ” says Youman. “For people who don’t want an enormous neighborhood, this community is just the right size. It’s small and cozy and you very well might get to know all of your neighbors.”
The development of Willow Chase was a joint effort between D.R. Horton, America’s largest home builder, and Lee Wetherington Homes. Most of the houses were recently built, in Spanish Mediterranean style with corbel tile roofs. They have a variety of floor plans, tall ceilings and wide, open interiors. “They’re virtually brand new, but you don’t live in new construction,” says Youman.
Her listing at 1190 Cielo Ct, for example, is a 2-bedroom, 2-bath house with 1,975 sq. ft. under air. Built in 2013, it has tray ceilings, plantation shutters, crown molding, archways, high end light fixtures and ceiling fans, and new appliances throughout– all the things people looking for in new homes would want. The list price is $419,000.
“It has one of the best lots in the neighborhood, with a deep lake and beautiful nature preserve behind it,” says Youman. “There will never be houses in back of it.”
According to Youman, residents are executives, professionals, dual income couples and some families with children. “With homes going for around $400,000” it requires a certain level of income,” she explains.
More than 37 percent of Willow chase’s population is between the ages of 45 and 64, a high percentage for Venice residents. Retirees make up the second largest group – more than 28 percent are 65 years of older.
Most live in Willow Chase year around. “Your neighbors are your neighbors, and they’re there,” she says.
They take advantage of the clubhouse with a big pool, a basketball court, tennis courts and a fitness center. A $240 monthly HOA fee includes upkeep of all landscaping – lawns, trees and shrubbery – and use of all the amenities. There are no CDD fees.
Those interested in an active lifestyle can make use of nature trails. The Venetian Golf and River Club just to the east offers non-resident memberships. The Legacy Trail and Nokomis Beach on Casey Key are easily accessible from Laurel Road.
For people who drive to work, I-75, Jacaranda Boulevard and Honore Avenue provide convenient commuting arteries. “You can buzz straight into the heart of Venice or pop up to Sarasota in a flash,” says Youman
The community is built-out – there has been no new construction for the past two years – so all the homes on the market are resales.
Over the past year, eight properties have sold, ranging in price from $294,000 to $480,000. Six listings are active, ranging from $238,950 to $489,000.
“The Laurel area is where the action is right now,” says Youman. “Then you’re through the gates of Willow Chase, and you’re in Shangri-La”