Yeehaw Junction, population 244, could soon be home to the state's 2nd largest retirement community.
According to an article on GrowthSpotter (paywall), developer Sun Terra Communities is under contract to purchase a 14,212 ranch and plans to build golf courses, town squares, activity centers, and around 34,000 homes.
Sounds a lot like some other place I know 😉
If everything goes according to plan, the community named Freedom, would be the 2nd biggest retirement community in Florida behind The Villages.
Where do you put 34,000 homes in Florida? The middle of nowhere!
Yeehaw Junction is in Osceola County and is considered to be part of the Orlando-Kissimmee Metropolitan Statistical Area, but it is a solid hour drive from Orlando to Yeehaw Junction via the Florida Turnpike. It's also about 30 minutes from the east coast and Vero Beach which is not too bad.
There's just not a whole lot around. You wouldn't move to Freedom and Yeehaw Junction because of what's there now. You would move there because of what you think it could potentially become in the future. For some retirees that's exciting and they have the willingness and patience to take a chance on being one of the first residents, while others will go the safer route and set their sights on communities in more established areas. If you fall into the latter group, this list of 55+ communities in Orlando might be helpful.
As I mentioned up top, the list of amenities reads like those you see in The Villages. Why reinvent the wheel? Everybody knows The Villages is the best-selling community in the country, and the amenities they offer are a big part of that.
The proposed site plan includes both Championship and Executive golf courses, town squares with restaurants, shopping, and entertainment, about 5 million square feet of commercial space, activity centers, parks, community pools, grocery stores, medical offices, and more.
Like The Villages, the community will be golf cart friendly, but the most interesting thing to me is the proposed network of interconnected waterways designed to provide miles of private boat or community water taxi access between many of Freedom's residential neighborhoods and town squares and activity centers.
It's far too early to know exactly what the homes will be like in Freedom, but the site plan shows a mix of mostly single-family homes and a few pockets of multi-family homes. Those could potentially be apartments, condos, or townhouses.
As far as prices are concerned, I have to imagine they'll need to get pretty aggressive on the pricing compared to other communities in order to entice people to jump and take a chance on a whole new area.
There are a bunch of retirees who are looking for places to retire in Florida in that $200k price range, but not a whole lot of new communities exist for them anymore. Perhaps these folks could be Freedom's target market.
Not a Sure Thing
Freedom achieving its goal of becoming Florida's second-largest retirement community is far from a done deal. This is not the first time developers have set their sights on Yeehaw Junction for mass development.
A group that included Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca tried unsuccessfully to bring an even bigger 27,000-acre project named “Destiny” to Yeehaw Junction in the early 2000s but the project never got off the ground, in part due to resistance from the Florida Department of Community Affairs, but also bad timing and the start of the Great Recession.
Mr. DeLuca died in 2015, and in 2020 his wife and family donated all 27,000 acres to the University of Florida Foundation and it is now known as DeLuca Preserve.
Freedom won't have to contend with the Florida Department of Community Affairs because Gov. Rick Scott and legislators did away with it in 2011, calling it “a job killer”, but what the economy will bring the next few years is anybody's guess.
Assuming Freedom eventually does get the green light, I'd count on it taking a while for construction to ramp up. With a lack of manpower in this immediate area, Freedom will likely have to attract construction workers and trades crews from both the Orlando and coastal areas. That will take time.
My Question for You
Do you have a pioneering spirit and would you be willing to take a chance on a community like this in a completely undeveloped area?
Or do you think you'll stick with communities in areas that already have a proven track record?
Let me know by leaving a comment down below!