The addition of 1,000 acres along Ave Maria’s town limits has paved the way for more single-family homes and commercial opportunities, plus property for an academic golf course and opportunities housing at Ave Maria University. The expansion, approved by Collier County commissioners in June, brings the town’s total footprint to nearly 5,000 acres and accommodates an increase in single-family homes from 60% to 80% of the residential mix, shared David Genson, president of development for Barron Collier Companies (BCC), the town developer of Ave Maria.
The adjustment, Genson explained, reflects demand for single-family homes and Ave Maria’s growing appeal to national brands and big box stores, as the master-plan stakes as the main commercial center in eastern Collier where several new residential communities are underway.
Other revisions to the town plan reallocate 510,000 square feet of designated office space to other uses, much of which reassigned to goods and services in a series of new town centers.
“Right now, we have more than 4,000 closed homes and with that many rooftops now have the attention of national companies,” Genson said. “We have the magic number to sustain national business.”
Also elevating Ave Maria’s national cache is the county’s recent 80% reduction in transportation impact fees for commercial construction. “A typical McDonald’s, for example, would now pay $120,000 in fees compared to $600,000,” Genson explained. The reduced fees are based on the town’s business growth and the range of in-town retail, restaurants, employers, professional services and medical offices, all dramatically decreasing the need for residents to travel elsewhere.
“We’ve made the case for a long time that Ave Maria isn’t impacting county facilities,” Genson said. “Residents have everything they need in town and don’t have to go out on county roads.”
The newly annexed properties bookend three corners of the town are owned by Barron Collier Companies and were used primarily for agricultural. The expansion includes 325 acres to the northwest, part of which will be gifted to the university for golf and student residences, and 100 acres on the northeast corner planned for single-family homes.
The largest tract, a 540-acre sod farm at the town’s main entrance, extends Ave Maria’s boundaries to the intersection of Oil Well and Camp Keais roads and is planned for single-family units and towns centers east of Ave Maria Boulevard, the latter reflecting the increase of goods and services use from 690,000 to over 1.07 million square feet.
“As Ave Maria and eastern Collier grows and more retail comes out of the ground, the big box stores are going to look for sites there,” Genson said. “It’s a logical site. Ave Maria is the commercial retail hub for the surrounding areas. We have a new retail center under active construction with national tenants.”
The 21,000-square-foot Midtown Plaza at Ave Maria Boulevard and Anthem Parkway is aimed for completion by mid-2024, and will be home to Dunkin’, Sunshine Ace Hardware, Cold Stone Creamery, Maryland-based Ledo Pizza and a 6,000-square-foot NCH Immediate Care Center.
“For a community like Ave Maria, it takes time getting to the critical mass meant to support retail,” said Brian Goguen, chief investment officer for BCC. “We were fortunate to get a Publix as early as we did. Now, there are so many commercial businesses interested in Ave Maria. We’ve also had residents come in with ideas and open their own businesses.”
“We’re talking to a couple of businesses looking to establish a presence in Ave Maria,” Genson added. “They need larger tracts of lands and Ave is one of the only places in the county with available property to do that.”
There are also active negotiations with light-manufacturers and Naplesbased Arthrex, a global medical device manufacturing company with 460,000 square feet already in Ave Maria, “is looking at other things to support employees,” Genson said.
The town’s strong home sales are also expediting construction of a new public elementary school. The new facility is expected to open in 2026 for the area’s, more than, 500 students who attend Golden Gate 15 miles away.
While Ave Maria’s revised residential mix reduces multi-family units to 2,200, future opportunities will be available. “Lennar currently offers multi-family homes in The National, a golf course neighborhood, and BCC plans to introduce market-rate apartments in the next few years,” Genson said.