Fitzsimmons is building homes again

The transition back to more reasonably priced new homes in Central Florida has a strong advocate with the return to the industry of local builder Bob Fitzsimmons.

The founder and former president of Masterpiece Homes in Volusia County, who left the company in late 2006 after earlier selling his stake to a larger operation, has recently launched a new company called Gallery Homes.

Fitzsimmons formed Gallery in DeLand with several longtime friends and former co-workers from Masterpiece Homes, which took the name of its Orleans Homebuilders parent, which is based in Pennsylvania.

After Orleans bought Masterpiece from Fitzsimmons about four years ago, it changed the company's focus to more closely match the more upscale focus employed in other parts of the country.

Fitzsimmons said his new business is "going back to our roots," with more moderately priced homes. He is concentrating on infill sites in the DeLand area, where the company just started work on its first home and has cleared three lots for other homes.

Three home styles will be offered, he said, with prices from the $140,000s to the $180,000s -- including the lot. Most new homes in the Orlando area start anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000, so Gallery Homes will compete at the lower end of the market.

It will do so in part by taking advantage of falling prices on lots, keeping the homes just under 1,200 square feet of heated space, and providing one-car garages instead of space for two.

Fitzsimmons said he is "squeezing" designs to keep prices as low as practical without sacrificing touches such as ceramic tile in the kitchen and foyer, architectural shingles and more than 9-foot-high ceilings in the three-bedroom, one-bath homes.

Even better news: Fitzsimmons said he bought land for Gallery's first subdivision about two weeks ago, a 55-lot community off State Road 44 west of DeLand to be called the Highlands. Homes there, he said, will have two-car garages and start from the $150,000s.

Major project

JCB Construction Inc. was recently awarded the site-work contract for Darden Restaurant Inc.'s new $100 million, 54-acre headquarters, located off John Young Parkway and the BeachLine Expressway. Darden is the Orlando area's only locally based Fortune 500 company. The general contractor for the work is Hardin Construction.

Financing

The Orlando office of Thomas D. Wood and Co. arranged $5 million in financing for Pine Island Fountain Shoppes and $650,000 for Causeway Professional Center. Financing for both was arranged by company Vice President Jeff Schnupp. Pine Island Fountain Shoppes was built in 2006 and is home to major tenants AT&T, Wells Fargo and Prudential. The 40,151-square-foot retail center is in Cape Coral. The 10,123-square-foot Causeway Professional Center is in New Smyrna Beach.

Completions

M. Paul General Contractors recently completed a 1,932-square-foot retail store for Bright House Networks on the University of Central Florida campus. The design professional on the project was Rob Blakeslee of Baker Barrios Architects.

Projects launched

Altamonte Springs-based Tri-City Electrical Contractors Inc. has started on $4 million worth of work at the new, 10-story, 280,155-square-foot Orlando Utilities Commission building in downtown Orlando, under its contract with Skanska/JCB, Orlando. The project is slated for completion in August 2008. . . .

The Central Florida office of Sikon Construction Corp. has started work on the two-story, 40,000-square-foot Tapestry Park in Jacksonville, a neo-traditional, mixed-use development for Joyce Development Group of Jacksonville. Longtime Florida construction veteran Dale E. Scott, Sikon's senior vice president, said the ground floor will feature 24,000 square feet of retail and the second floor will contain 16,000 square feet of Class A office space. Designed by Charlan Brock & Associates of Maitland, the project is scheduled to open in spring 2008.

Lots of landscaping

The design/build team of architect C.T. Hsu + Associates and general contractor Clancy & Theys Construction Co. has selected Foster Conant & Associates to provide landscape architecture for the new City Hall in Winter Garden. Foster Conant is handling concept design, construction documents and construction observation for the three-story, 44,000-square-foot facility, with 125 parking spaces, on Plant Street. Services include landscape, irrigation and hardscape design, including pedestrian walkways and a large civic plaza. The plaza, surrounded by greenery, will contain open space, fountains, seating, retaining walls and flag poles. The landscape architects preserved large live oaks by designing the parking lot around them. The project is scheduled for completion next July.

Pending addition

Fortress Construction Group of Lake Mary was recently awarded a contract to add 3,500 square feet of living space to a luxury home in Heathrow Woods. Charles Ayers, who formed Fortress Construction after closing out development of Alaqua Lakes in Seminole County, said the work includes a pool pavilion, indoor and outdoor kitchens, game room, exercise room, a home office, a new travertine pool deck, complete with koi pond, and a 4,000-square-foot screened play field. The project is budgeted at $560,000.

CONTACT: Jerry W. Jackson can be reached at jwjackson@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5721.


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