New development keeps GHO in vanguard of building boom

The mainland building boom, GHO’s homebuilding dominance in Indian River County, and the county’s careful oversight of development continue with approval of the Arabella Reserve Subdivision at the corner of 58th Avenue and 49th Street.

The preliminary plat for the single-family home community got a unanimous thumbs-up at the most recent County Planning & Zoning meeting.

GHO Homes bought the 28-acre site from from three separate owners last fall, according to county records, paying a total of $915,000.

The company will develop the land and build 71 homes that will be laid out in two concentric squares around a large central pond, with five smaller storm water retention ponds tucked in corners. When ground is broken, Arabella will be the 16th subdivision in Indian River County in which GHO Homes has an active hand.

Originally the development was to be 17 acres with access off busy 58th Avenue, but County Planner Ryan Sweeney said GHO Homes bought 10 more acres to connect to 49th Street at the county’s suggestion, making for a safer entrance.

Sweeney also commended GHO Homes for ceding a 67-foot-wide strip of land to the county to widen 58th Avenue, which is on the county’s docket for late 2019. It will be widened from 49th Street to 57th Street, Sweeney said. GHO also enlarged its storm water ponds to handle runoff from the road widening, saving the county the trouble.

Waterway Village across the street, a DiVosta Home Builders’ development, will pay for most of the improvements to the 58th Avenue and 49th Street intersection, as required under its developer’s agreement with the county.

GHO Homes’ smaller contribution will be hammered out in its pending developer’s agreement.

GHO will be required to plant a 25-foot-deep and 6-foot-high buffer to shield homes from 49th Street and 58th Avenue traffic. Exterior sidewalks on 58th Avenue have been deferred because of the road widening, with GHO paying the county to do the work when the time comes. The county will not require exterior sidewalks along 49th Street because a deep canal runs parallel.

Schulke, Bittle and Stoddard is GHO’s engineer and representative in the Arabella project-approval process. Joe Schulke said the land was once “an agricultural site, so it’s already been flattened and cleared.”

Although GHO Homes’ corporate office is in Port St. Lucie, most of the company’s employees live in Indian River County, where the builder is most active, Schulke said.

The 25-year-old company was founded by Dan Handler, who in 2000 handed the reins over to his son, Bill Handler, an attorney with a degree in building construction.

The Handlers sold the company in 2006 to national builder Woodside Homes, buying it back in 2010, after the real estate collapse, for “pennies on the dollar,” according to Schulke.

“We have a level of comfort here,” said GHO Homes President Bill Handler. “We’ve built relationships and we feel we understand the market. And we’re heavily invested here. We have 12 to 14 decorated model homes open to the public, which is very expensive.”

Handler said the company built 243 homes last year, almost all in Indian River County, generating $85 million in revenue.


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