A new development in northern St. Johns County that will rival Nocatee in size will be building homes within a year and eventually could contain more than 10,000 homes. The Hutson Companies unveiled its master-planned community called SilverLeaf on Wednesday. SilverLeaf covers about 8,400 acres, stretching from near County Road 210 all the way to State Road 16. It’s situated between Stonehurst and Johns Creek. It hasn’t been much of a secret as crews have been clearing miles of land, and the development has been part of multiple county government meetings in the last dozen years while approvals and modifications were obtained.

But Wednesday’s event was about announcing that the development is about to join the competition for home buyers in northern St. Johns County very soon. Hutson Companies Vice President Travis Hutson said new residents could be ready to move in by the spring. It’s a crowded market but one that seems to feature customers with an insatiable appetite.

The C.R. 210 corridor, extending over to Nocatee, and everything north has been a prime area for builders since the recession ended. “We’re pretty excited and optimistic about the market,” Hutson said. “I live here off (C.R.) 210. The community is off CR 210, it’s just a family community. It’s tight-knit, based around amenities. We’ve got a great educational system for our kids.

“You’re getting those first- or second-time home buyers coming in with children that are looking for that first-class education, and at the same time they want the luxury of those amenities.”

In recent years, home building in St. Johns County has far exceeded that of Duval County. And last month, the county saw a record 522 residential permits issued.

“It has been amazing to be part of it (growth) and see new families and new friends coming in,” Hutson said.

But with thousands of home sites still available in Nocatee and nearby RiverTown — not to mention other communities like Shearwater, Beacon Lake, Beachwalk and more — Hutson said it takes more than nice houses and a swimming pool.

“The trick is, as a developer, trying to bring in something new and special,” he said. “Everybody wants to do the splash park and it works. We’ve got a little beach walk conceptionally planned with a nice dog park and other fields. We’ve kind of taken something from everyone and put it all into one big package.”

There’s quite a bit of flexibility in the long term for SilverLeaf. The developer has the option to add some age-restricted neighborhoods and has room to build a golf course community with an 18-hole course if desired.

SilverLeaf is planned for 1.7 million square feet of commercial space. And there will be about 4,000 acres left undeveloped.

Currently, the development is approved for 6,800 single-family units and 3,900 multi-family units. But the developer could ask to adjust that balance as the market changes over the next decade.

The Hutson Companies certainly saw the market and the landscape of the county change since SilverLeaf was first approved by the county in 2006.

The initial plan was delayed as the housing market crashed and was revived in a healthy market.

There has also been the somewhat unexpected boost in traffic improvements in the area.

SilverLeaf now has the advantage of being tied into the First Coast Expressway, which just received funding for the last portion of the project that runs through St. Johns County. Construction will start in 2023 on Phase III (including a bridge over the St. Johns River where the Shands Bridge currently stands and connection to Interstate 95 in St. Johns County).

There’s also the new connector from State Road 9B onto I-95 and the possibility of adding express (toll) lanes on I-95, starting in 2025.

“In 2006, the market, but really the infrastructure, was not ready for SilverLeaf,” said Doug Miller of England, Thims & Miller, the project designer.

Miller noted that The Hutson Companies has spent $85 million on road improvements to St. Johns Parkway and SilverLeaf Parkway.

“It connects International Golf Parkway to 210 and connects all of those communities both in World Golf Village and 210 to one another but also to … 9B,” Miller said.

Hutson said it was great that so much work has been done since the company started working on plans for SilverLeaf in 2004.

“In 2004, we didn’t anticipate Gate doing their thing with the 9B extension,” he said. “We didn’t anticipate the First Coast Expressway. We knew it could be possible in 20 or 30 years, but we didn’t know it was coming this quickly. It was something that definitely was a blessing and helped spark the interest in this project.”

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