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TMCNet:  HGTV to build smart home in Jacksonville Beach, and then give it away

[August 15, 2012]

HGTV to build smart home in Jacksonville Beach, and then give it away

Aug 15, 2012 (The Florida Times-Union - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A small neighborhood in Jacksonville Beach is about to get a lot of national attention. HGTV is going to build its first smart home in the Paradise Key South Beach development, just north of Butler Boulevard.

And when it's finished, the network will give it away. No value has been placed on the home, but last year's package was estimated at $800,000.

For 17 years now, HGTV has been doing its Dream Home project. Those are grandiose homes, usually with mountain or water views, that are also given away. Last year's was in Park City, Utah, and had an estimated value of about $2 million.

The project always draws viewers and entries into the sweepstakes, 81 million entries last year.

Three years ago, the network started a similar project called the Green Home, with an emphasis on sustainability and efficiency. Last year's was in the Serenbe community outside of Atlanta. Though it hasn't been as popular as the Dream Home, it still drew 35 million entries when the network gave it away.

This year, the Green Home has become the Smart Home with various monitoring systems for both security and efficiency.

Jack Thomasson, whose been in charge of HGTV's Dream, Green and Smart Homes since they started, said he scouts the nation looking for property to build on.

"I had targeted Northeast Florida as one of the regions I was looking at," he said. "We've had Dream and Green homes in Florida, but never in the Northeast region.

"It's very different in a wonderful way from the rest of Florida." He'd heard about Paradise Key South Beach, called developer Lon Walton and toured the development one Sunday morning early May.

"It just went from there," Walton said.

Construction is expected to begin in the next seven-10 days. It should be done in January, then a production team will film there every day for a month, Thomasson said.

The network's special on the home will air something this spring, and then the sweepstakes begins.

The house will be 2,400 square feet, three bedrooms and three baths, but HGTV won't release a rendering of the home yet.

Architect Mike Stauffer has designed it, Glenn Layton Homes will build it.

"We drove along Atlantic and Neptune beach, looking at all the old beach homes," Layton said. "The cool story is that the house is inspired by those different homes.

"There are some timeless elements from the old Florida style house." He did say it would have lots of porches and other outdoor spaces.

Layton and Thomasson said that many of the smart gadgets are still being determined, but home monitoring will be a large part of it -- real time monitoring of energy and water use, along with remote operation of appliances.

That means not just watching your electricity use or turning on your dishwasher with your phone.

"If you go back to the emergence of what was called a smart home," Thomasson said, "it kind of came and went because it was so expensive and so complicated. Homeownes want to enjoy their homes.

"What's going to surprise a lot of people is that so many of these gadgets are now wireless. Some people make think about adding it, but think they can't retrofit their house because the wiring is so expensive.

"But wireless is where the future is." For Walton, the project will bring plenty of attention to his 22-acre, 62 lot development.

"It's a great thing for Paradise Key, for Jacksonville Beach and for Jacksonville," he said.

The development came online in 2006, but when the housing market collapsed, Walton put it on hold for 2 1/2 years. He revived it in late 2010, had some activity last year. But it's taken off better this year.

Since February, he said, he's had 10 deals in various stages. There are only four homes there now, but he expects six more to begin construction in the next 45-90 days.

Lots sell for $150,000-$229,000 there. Most of the homes, he said, would be in the $500,000-$750,000 range.

The development has an architectural review committee to maintain a certain look.

"I thnk it's a mixture of coastal with old Florida elements," Walton said. "There's a real vision to create a unique develoment -- metal roofs, white picket fences and porches.

"It's a look that's not overdone in North Florida." HGTV's Dream Home project came under scrutiny a few years ago when winners realized they often couldn't afford the income and property taxes on their $1 million-plus prize.

Since then, the network has begun including cash to help pay those bills. Last year's Dream Home included $500,000, last year's Green Home $100,000.

"With the addition of cash," Thomasson said, "we are comfortable with whatever the winner decides. They have 100 percent equity. They can keep it, they can sell, they have control of that prize." Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296 ___ (c)2012 The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) Visit The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, Fla.) at www.jacksonville.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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