LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. - It’s been a long time coming. The 39th and newest city of Palm Beach County is one step closer to a reality.
The city of Westlake cut the ribbon for the first of thousands of homes set to be developed on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, between Southern Boulevard and Northlake Boulevard. Retail, medical opportunities and even a new university are just some of the things that will be in the works there.
“It’s been a long process but certainly well worth the effort," said Mike Belmont, president of Minto Communities, which is developing the city.
Belmont said his company is approved to develop 4,500 homes on nearly 4,000 acres of land near Loxahatchee. It’s a feat he said will take some time.
“Typically in real estate, there’s some slow periods, so we’ll experience that at some point along the way," he said. "But I think 15 to 20 year horizon is a proper estimate right now."
There's also two million square feet of non-residential development in the works, such as retail and city offices.
“We’re going to have police, fire, restaurants, grocery stores, shopping centers. We’re going to have everything that people will need," said Katrina Long-Robinson, vice mayor for the city of Westlake.
Long-Robinson is one of several new city leaders appointed in Westlake. She and other local leaders with the city and Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce toured six model homes on display in the first planned neighborhood, The Hammocks.
She said the goal with developers is to create affordable housing, with single-family homes starting in the $200,000 range.
Minto is also working with the city of Westlake on a down payment assistance plan that gives income qualified buyers a three percent non-interest forgivable loan on home down payments. Additionally, civil servants such as police, firefighters, military members and healthcare and government workers are also eligible for three percent discount on the price of the home itself.
“Here in Palm Beach County, there is a lack of affordable housing in a sense and so we're excited that we will be able to offer affordable housing here out in Westlake," said Long-Robinson.
Westlake was officially incorporated in January 2016 but protests and opposition from county commissioners created some hurdles.
“There were some lawsuits filed but everything was done according to state statutes, according to the law and unfortunately those challenges delayed us," said Belmont.
Belmont said there are no active lawsuits concerning the development.
The first phase of construction includes 300 homes, with plans to develop extra amenities such as an adventure playground, dog park, sports courts, aquatics center, and multi-purpose building.
Minto is still looking for retailers but the land is being prepped for that phase before construction begins. Zoning has also been approved for medical use and even a 3,000 student university.
“Which would probably be toward the end of next year, early 2019. The construction could lag, but I think we’ll be ready to the point where we can actually sell land to some of those retail developers," said Belmont. “It’s not only retail though, it’s employment centers. We’re focused heavily on getting employers out here because that’s really important, where you can work and live in the same community."