Stonelake Ranch leading Thonotosassa growth spurt
THONOTOSASSA - Harish Madnani could live anywhere in the Tampa area, but the physician chose the rural setting of Stonelake Ranch on Lake Thonotosassa. He was drawn to the sprawling equestrian and lakefront community because of its sweeping vista of the lake, open meadows, rolling hills, a bird sanctuary and an abundance of moss-draped grand oaks and magnolias. The secluded enclave tucked off McIntosh and Thonotosassa roads north of Interstate 4 fulfills the small-town sensibilities the Madnani family became accustomed to when they lived in Mississippi. “When we were looking for a place to build a home, we wanted open skies, a large lot and something close to nature,” said Madnani, who practices internal medicine at Access Healthcare in Hudson. “We didn’t want to be too close to town.”Embracing a serene quality of life away from the hustle-and-bustle of city living is a common theme in the affluent development, where the home sites range in price from about $100,000 to nearly $1 million. These days, sounds of progress at Stonelake Ranch blend in with the refrains of chirping birds and squawking geese. Stonelake Ranch is experiencing a growth spurt and impressive sales in a recovering housing market. Eight home sites have been sold in the community so far this year, outpacing the six luxury home estates sold there in 2012, said Virginia Arnold, senior sales associate at Stonelake Ranch. Each home sale averages more than $1 million with one 14,000-square-foot home topping out at $2 million. Luxury home sales and foot traffic is up across the area, according to the Tampa Bay Builders Association. Stonelake Ranch representatives see 2013 as a major turnaround year. “By the first quarter of this year we had sold as many lots as we did for all of 2012,” Stonelake Ranch general manager Brian Funk said. “We have learned understanding who our buyer is is important.” Real estate agents are selling Stonelake Ranch as a final move-in destination for homebuyers, Funk said. Nestled along the 900-acre Lake Thonotosassa, Stonelake Ranch is a 625-acre community of 160 executives and estate homes. It was developed in 2004 by Charles Funk and Jeff Meehan, founders of the Arbor Green community in New Tampa. Stonelake Ranch provides home sites ranging from 1.5 to 18 acres, each designed to retain the natural character of the former Florida ranch at that site. Houses at Stonelake must contain at least 3,500 square feet of living space if built on the water or a minimum of 3,000 square feet of interior space if built off the water. More than a third of Stonelake’s home sites border the lake, which is Hillsborough County’s largest, providing 10,000 feet or lakefront, sweeping water views as well as an island bird sanctuary. Lavish estate homes are being built by some of the area’s best known custom home builders, including Alvarez Homes, Arthur Rutenberg Homes, Bayfair Homes, John Cannon Homes, Homes by John C. Fowke, Windstar Homes, Bartlett Custom Homes and Olivera Construction. Several Stonelake residents have built private residential compounds – not just houses. The sprawling home sites are sprinkled with main houses and guest cottages. They have built horse stables to enjoy the community’s 40-foot-wide riding trails and 120 acres of meadows. Roughly 38 percent of the homebuyers are doctors, Arnold said. Other residents include a rapper and several well-known business executives and professional athletes, including football, baseball and hockey players. Stonelake representatives declined to identify their famous homebuyers. “Everyone who lives here is very successful and down-to-earth,” Madnani said.