In the real estate markets of St. George Island and Cape San Blas, these years were the last ones of normalcy; they were a time, now lost, when real estate for sale was selling, albeit at a leisurely pace; they were days when lots for sale, unlike now, were actually selling, albeit slowly. They were the last of the Good Ole Days.
Here and there, rumors were beginning to emerge, whereby a sleeping giant would soon wake up - but no one knew for sure. After all, most rumors are just that: rumors! The giant was the conglomerate founded by Alfred du Pont de Nemours - a scion of a most aristocratic family, which left France just in time to keep their heads on their shoulders, so-to-speak, during the Revolution. The conglomerate was a vertically integrated concern focused on forestry, thus real estate, in Florida. The St. Joe Land Company owned one million acres of pine forest; it was selling the lumber to the next company on the food chain: the St. Joe Paper Company. The St. Joe Paper Company was owning and operating the papermill in Port St. Joe. Then, the papermill was selling its products to the St. Joe Container Company, which manufactured boxes. The finished goods were then shipped out through the network of the Apalachicola Northern Rail Road. The last CEO's of these entities were: Clay Smallwood for the Land company; Robert Nedley for the Papermill; Ralph Roberson for the Container company; and Wayne Parrish for the Railroad. As a local anecdote, Ralph Roberson, who was then at the head of the St. Joe Container Co., has since opened the area's main CPA practice, Roberson & Associates, with thriving offices in Port St. Joe and Apalachicola. www.rapacpas.com Back to Alfred du Pont's empire: it was headquartered in Jacksonville, for his personal convenience; and centered in Port St. Joe, because it was the forestry holdings' geocenter, and the location of the papermill erected in the 1930's.
According to the rumor mill, real estate development plans were grandiose! It would place the Forgotten Coast (and beyond) on the map! Imaginations and tongues were running freely... In reality, the decision to convert from a paper manufacturer into a real estate developer had been made in 1996. Yet, it took three years of discreet preparation and planning before some of the plans became available to the public.
In the meantime, sales of real estate were taking place at a slow, yet increasing pace. Prices were timidly going up. Most buyers were coming to St. George Island, Cape San Blas, Mexico Beach, or Carrabelle because they simply enjoyed the beach or fishing - or both. Remember: we have the best beaches and the best fishing in the world - th eproblem was that the world was not (yet) aware of it! In spite of these nascent vicissitudes, the real estate market was balanced and sane.
By late 1998 and early 1999, at the St. Joe Company things were finally beginning to move on the surface - still waters had run deep for several years. The first St. Joe tract to be offered for sale was "Driftwood". Located to the immediate east of Lanark Village, between the Catholic Chapel "Sacred Heart" and the road to the "St. James Bay" golf course. Driftwood was a platted subdivision comprised of 27 bayfront one-acre lots, spreading over seven tenths of a mile of bay frontage. The lots were originally listed for sale between $89,500 and $129,500. St. Joe had chosen one independent company to market their first project: Anchor Realty & Mortgage Co. All Anchor Realty Realtors were at the same time honored and proud to have been the object of such a distinction. We were apprehensive on how we would perform, but we believed in the product and in our good star...
I remember well the discussions leading to the final pricing dictated by the St. Joe Co., then called ARVIDA. The last comparable sales for the previous twelve months had been only two lots, that closed somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 each. ARVIDA had hired a South Florida marketing firm. They suggested a sporty 100% increase from the comparable sales benchmarks, and forcasted that, should the listing agent (meaning "us") do a good job, the absorption rate should be of ten lots a year - translating into a sell out of Driftwood in slightly less than three years!
Peter Rummell, the then CEO of St. Joe, was a fervent believer in "added value" in real estate and was pushing for this high pricing. We were a bit skeptical, but did we have a choice?
Newness was back then in "L' Air du Temps" - and I am not talking about the perfume by Nina Ricci! The tenure of Bill Clinton at the White House was coming to an end; and with it came high expectations for change, as is always the case at election times in Democracies. The dot.com bubble had just imploded, and many thought that brick and mortar (real estate) was the best antidote to the problem. Furthermore, the St. Joe dream combined with the human desire to be first to find a hidden treasure, contributed to the creation of grounds fertile for what would come next: the "Golden Days"!
Stay tuned for the next episode of the real estate saga of St. George Island, Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, Carrabelle, Mexico Beach, St. Joe Beach, Eastpoint, Apalachicola and beyond...
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Olivier Monod first visited the "Forgotten Coast" in 1981 and relocated permanently in 1988, joining Anchor Realty & Mortgage Co. as a real estate sales associate. He became Anchor Realty & Mortgage Co.’s broker and president in June 1990, overseeing three real estate associates and one employee in the single office on St. George Island.
Through Olivier’s vision and under his leadership, Anchor Realty & Mortgage Co. did grow to multiple offices, located along 85 miles of the "Forgotten Coast" and north to Tallahassee. With up to 80 real estate associates at the peak of the real estate boom, Anchor Realty & Mortgage Co. posted sales of $235,932,037 in 2004.
During the same years, Olivier oversaw the development of Anchor Vacation Properties, Inc.; a company that managed and rented over 400 beach houses. The Gulf County Division was sold in 2005 to Pristine Properties, Inc., and the Franklin County Division was sold in 2006 to an unrelated entity, named Anchor Vacations LLC (this last entity ended up filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2008).
In 2001, Olivier earned his designation as Commercial Real Estate specialist: CCIM (see ccim.com) - a testimony to his experience, track-record and knowledge in the field of commercial real estate.
The drastic downturn in the Forgotten Coast real estate sales did force Anchor Realty & Mortgage Co. to downsize, going from eleven to three offices. Many Realtors had to find other jobs and eventually left the profession. Olivier was left with a small core of experienced veterans, whose loyalty to his leadership was only matched by their in-depth understanding of the market.
In 2010, it became obvious that a new business concept was needed. Real estate, like the rest of the world, had changed. In the 1980s, when Olivier started in the profession, sales contracts were just a few words on a letter-size page; they have morphed with time to six or more legal size pages. When he started, there was no Multiple Listing Service on the island; now, the listing inventory is available online. The number and size of offices is no longer a determining factor, but rather the ability to provide quick and professional service in the medium chosen by clients: internet, email, telephone or in-person. This new reality brought about a fresh start as the broker of a new company: Anchor Realty of St. George Island, Inc.
Olivier and his team have developed or sold many planned communities, including Gramercy Plantation, a 400-acre, low density, private community, with retail and residential areas in a high-end low density planned neighborhood. Gramercy Plantation was executed carefully to preserve the character and spirit of the area through dedicating substantial acreage to conservation and common grounds. The 110 home sites are scattered on minimum one-acre sites throughout the development.
Olivier, who grew up in Paris, first visited the U.S. in 1975 on a high school graduation trip; he fell in love with our country after touring from New York to San Francisco in a Greyhound bus. He subsequently moved to Florida and became a U.S. citizen in the 1990s.
A community leader, Olivier shows a keen interest in education and culture for our children through sponsorship of the ABC school (his two children attend this local public school), and classical music programs for high-schoolers. Olivier and his family make their home in historic Apalachicola, in the Forgotten Coast.