Florida builders and developers, who have been through some lean years recently, are still showmen.
In model homes, condominiums and town house clusters scattered over the southwest Gulf Coast from Sarasota to Naples, Fla., the mood is one of "can you top this?"
Model homes here at Punta Gorda Isles, which opened earlier this year, feature swimming pools with waterfalls and kitchens with push-button controls and futuristic furnishings.
Punta Gorda Isles is a boating community on a network of canals that run into the Charlotte Harbor at Punta Gorda, just north of Fort Myers. Established in the early 1950s, it is the sort of development that could not initiated today because of stringent state and federal environmental restrictions on dredging.
This haven for yatchsmen and fishermen is luxurious and expensive. It costs at least $50,000 to build a house and lots are also expensive. The development was the brainchild of two retired Central Intelligence Agency men who met while on duty in the Far East, Wilbur (Bud) Cole and Al Johns, now president and chairman of the board, respectively.
The town of Punta Gorda, once a fishing village that drew the likes of a Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Ford in search of tarpon, has survived many a boom and bust period since its beginnings in the 1880s.
The current city manager, Robert Hollander, says the area is on the move again. A new bridge aids crowded traffic over Route 41 and a new highway has brought the hurrican-vulnerable Isles within a safe distance of the mainland. Building permits are on the increase this year but have a long way to go before catching up to the 1973 record.
Last year Cole and Johns established their own construction business, specializing in custom-built homes. Their "waterfall house" and four other models have been drawing crowds here.
The distinctive feature of the waterfall house is its 15-foot-high plunge of water into the swimming pool. The house is a design of circles and semi-circles wrapping around the pool and waterfall, which can be seen from every room including the "command" kitchen.