September 20, 2014

Real Estate

50,000 Acres and a Ranch

A central Florida tract of land 1 1/2 times the size of Disney World goes up for sale.

Ken Ibold | 8/1/2004
It's almost the stuff of Florida legend -- the opportunity to buy a tract of land big enough for an entire town or a half-dozen world-class theme parks. The Wilson family, the land's owner, is at the crossroads between old Florida's agricultural past and the future of development.

Development, it appears, will win.

The nearly 50,000 acres bordered by Florida's Turnpike and the Kissimmee River are being sold off in sealed bids. The bulk of the land -- ranchland, woods, wetlands and a small amount of riverfront property -- is in Osceola County. About 100 acres are in Indian River County. It has been broken into 14 parcels ranging from 425 acres to 22,000 acres.

At more than 34 square miles, the largest tract is many times larger than ChampionsGate, the mega-development along Interstate 4 at the Osceola/Polk line. All of the tracts together are 1 1/2 times the size of the Disney World property, which totals 30,500 acres.

Saunders Real Estate, which is handling the sale, says the land includes an average amount of wetlands for the area -- about 20% to 25%. The property is about 40 miles from Vero Beach, at the junction of Florida's Turnpike, S.R. 60 and U.S. Highway 441.

Broker Dean Saunders says this is the first time the property has been offered for sale in more than two generations and that the owners have been motivated by rising land values and declining returns from the existing cattle operation.

"Someone with vision could come in here and get enough land to build a whole new town, if that's what they want," Saunders says.

Bidding on the property will last through the end of September. The land could go for anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000 an acre, depending on the size of the parcel, access and topography.

Whatever the outcome of the sale, the current owners will retain enough land -- 16,000 acres -- for cattle operations and other uses, Saunders says. And though he didn't say it, it's also quite clear the sellers will come away with enough cash to make cattle ranching seem a little old-fashioned.

Tags: Central

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