News Column

Canadian investment firm plans development near Midway Road west of I-95

July 4, 2014

By Keona Gardner, Treasure Coast Newspapers, Stuart, Fla.

July 04--ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- A Canadian real estate investment firm has purchased more than 500 acres northwest of Midway Road and west of Interstate 95 for a future development, the Villages of Midway.

Walton Acquisitions FL LLC purchased 516 acres -- a 400-acre tract in Fort Pierce and an adjoining 116-acre tract in unincorporated county -- for a combined $5 million, according to documents filed with the St. Lucie County Clerk of Court.

The firm's parent company is Walton International, a privately owned real estate investment and land development firm based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The firm's U.S. headquarters is in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Officials have not decided whether the project would be residential, commercial, or mixed use, Bob Sebesta, Walton's general manager for Florida wrote Thursday in an email.

"We are in the early stages (of) developing a conceptual plan for the property that will incorporate the property's natural features as well as the historical and cultural features of Fort Pierce and the surrounding communities," Sebesta wrote.

He said company officials chose the area for its growth potential.

"The Fort Pierce/Port St. Lucie area is well positioned for future growth as the state continues to be a favored destination for both residents from other states as well as other countries," Sebesta wrote.

Both parcels are zoned agricultural at 2.5 units per acre.

"Although we do not have a proposed plan for the property, it is likely that the future use will be something other than agricultural," Sebesta wrote. "However, until that process is complete, we intend to continue with the current agricultural use."

Meanwhile, the firm is selling lots to private foreign investors, according to documents filed with the St. Lucie County Clerk of Court.

Walton has divided the lots among more than 1,000 private investors but the firm retains a 5 percent ownership stake, records show.

The firm will act as the project's operator. The individual, mostly foreign investors do not have the right to live on or sell the land, records state.

Before development can occur, Walton officials would have to choose whether the project would be in Fort Pierce or the county and seek annexation.

"In all likelihood, the parcel in the county would be annexed into the city of Fort Pierce," said County Planning Manager Leslie Olson. "They wouldn't have to meet with us but apply for annexation through the city of Fort Pierce."

Fort Pierce Planning Manager Rebecca Grohall on Thursday wrote in an email that she met with Walton representatives in October when the firm was exploring options for the property. However, she hasn't heard from them since the group purchased the land.

"We welcome development on that parcel and will work with them to provide the support they need for a successful project," Grohall wrote Friday in an email.

Nikolaus Schroth, vice president and broker associate with the Stuart-based NAI Southcoast, who facilitated the land deal, said the Walton firm is known in the development community for building large mixed-use communities.

"Walton is a buyer of acreage. What they like to do is buy large tracts of land and develop it, putting in infrastructure and whatever is needed to make it a livable community," Schroth said.


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Source: Treasure Coast Newspapers (Stuart, FL)

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