On Thursday I was able to get into Origin, the first building in The Towne of Seahaven. I had planned on getting in there a week prior, but due to the fact that they were trying to finish up the elevator inspections, the building was closed. The elevators passed their inspections and that part of the CO (certificate of occupancy) is done.
This was not the first time I had been in the building and like every other time, I was impressed. This was the first time, however, that I had been with most of the condos finished and the amenity deck on the fourth floor completed and cleaned. I can say that for those that have closed and for those that will close soon, the pool is done, looking beautiful and ready to use.
What makes The Towne of Seahaven so special is the fact that it is not just another condo on the beach. Seahaven will be a full scale resort with a fully operational village inspired by the Village of Baytowne Wharf and other Intrawest-designed villages across the country. Villages are so desired because it creates a place for people to gather and shop, walk, dine, talk, have fun, whatever. The old saying “if you build it, they will come” is so true with a village destination because it creates a community feel that causes people to gravitate towards it. Those of you that are familiar with Sandestin know how incredibly successful it has been and how the village draws a crowd almost every weekend.
The entry-way was complete with brick pavers and the lobby/entryway area was complete and finished off quite nicely might I add. The fit and finish feels nice, not cheap like so many of the condos on the beach. It was evident right away that much attention to detail was taken. One little thing that I thought was cool was the elevator interior finish. I haven’t been in tons of elevators in our area, but none of the ones that I have been in looked like this. They didn’t make you feel like you were encased in a steel box, they were finished with a dark red wood, Tommy Bahama style. Another thing that caught my attention is the bronze colored front door light covers with the Origin logo cut into it. This may not seem like much to many of you, but front door light covers are very easy to go cheap on and the developer chose to use a custom cover design to add to the detail-specific fit and finish. In addition, the condo number plates below the light cover is a custom design as well, employing the cool tribal pattern look present in all the marketing materials since the beginning. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just take a look at one of the old email newsletters that they sent and check out the background pattern, or take another look at your purchase guide you got two years ago.
One thing that the appraisers can’t take into consideration when doing their appraisals is the fact that every condo (yes, even the studios) comes completely furnish and rental ready. This means couches, tables, sheets, dishes, silverware, everything. The buyers have to buy nothing to get their condo ready for the rental program or whatever they intend to use it for. One more value that many overlook is the fact that everything is already in the condo. Not only do you not have to purchase furniture, but you don’t have to move it in either. You don’t have to put the dishes away, make all the beds for the first time, arrange everything, etc. You spend a weekend moving $25k worth of furniture up stairs/elevator and tell me how fun it is. It’s great you don’t have to do it here.
As Neel Bennett was showing me around, I saw many opportunities that he could have taken to save a few bucks and increase his profit. For instance, the redwood mahogany doors (forgive me if I don’t have this exactly correct) cost around $800 a piece, and the huge trusses on the front top of the building (that help give the outside of the building awesome definition and differentiation) cost more than $700,000 each. There are a couple of other buildings on Panama City Beach that have exterior treatments to set them apart, but non as elaborate as Origin. There are a lot of things that you can’t put a specific value on, but it is these things that make Origin/Seahaven a differentiated product that will invite people away from the competition and into it’s lobby doors.
I know that this post seems like I am developer/Seahaven biased, and I guess I am. Our family is purchasing in Origin and we are excited. We’ve always been excited. My father is so cool and level-headed. When asked about the market and his feelings toward it in relation with his current real estate purchases, I quote “Jason, the market goes up and down all the time in the short-term, but if you look at a 10 to 15 year trend, it almost always goes up.” The longer term the investment, the lower the risk. What did he do September 12th when everyone was selling their stocks? He didn’t sell a thing and waited it out, and guess what? He got it all back. Sure it is going to take longer than expected to build Seahaven and the village, but how could anyone expect Panama City Beach to be exempt from the same real estate troubles the rest of the country is going through right now.
The DRI (development of regional impact, required of all developments over 999 total units) was completed in June. The cost including all planning, permitting, fees, etc. was in excess of $1 million. The DRI process can take anywhere from 12 to 36 months and is subject to state and local government participation in the approval process and often requires droves of attorneys (and we all know anything that involves attorneys, 36 months can go quickly). The village could not be started until the DRI was done.
Neel stressed that they are taking the crossing of Front Beach Road very seriously. There is a cross walk with a structured, concrete-curb median that will be landscaped when complete. This truly does create a pedestrian presence that actually influences the cars driving through to slow down and stop for pedestrian crossing. Both times we crossed the street, cars stopped for us without us hardly waiting. In addition, they just refinished the section of Front Beach Road that passes through Seahaven, making three lanes with the center being a universal turn lane and they are installing flashing lights and pedestrian crossing signs to slow the traffic down further.
Below I’ve included pictures and a quick video that I made to help show you around. My video making skills have gotten better, but they’re still not great. Also, Seahaven did not pay, nor give me any other incentive to write any of this. This is all my honest opinion. I am a very big proponent to positive information, although I do not intentionally fluff information.
Alternate media types: Windows Media Player, 512k