On Top of the World Communities
On Top of the World Communities is a family-owned and operated builder and developer of distinct, active lifestyle communities. Based in Ocala, Florida, the business was founded in 1947 by the late Sidney Colen. His son, Kenneth Colen, grew up in the business and took over the operation as president in 1981. Today, On Top of the World remains the oldest, privately owned land developer in the state of Florida.
“My father started this business after World War II, building one home at a time,” Kenneth recounts. “He expanded the company steadily, buying up lots and then tracts of land to develop exclusively in the St. Petersburg-Clearwater area. My father claimed to be the first condominium developer in the country because prior to 1957, no one else had been building divided interest properties with the common element being the land.”
Though Kenneth grew up in the home building business, he never thought he would end up in construction. He majored in resource development with an interest in microbiology and biochemistry, but not long after graduating, he ended up back at the family business. About that time in late 1975, Sidney Colen purchased a 13,000 acre tract of land in Marion County, Florida. The contract was written on the back of an envelope on December 14, and closed on December 30 of the same month.
Today, Kenneth oversees a team of approximately 500 people. The business has developed three communities in Marion County, Florida, which it manages, maintains and continues to improve. Each home is built to the highest standards of energy efficiency while promoting comfort and an active, social lifestyle for the active adult residents.
Building community for the future
Culture is a major component of the On Top of the World experience. “The community has a focus on arts, education, and healthy lifestyle with multiple amenities to keep residents active, both mentally and physically,” says Kenneth. “That’s why we offer dog parks, garden clubs, more than 14 miles of walking trails, community activity centers, pools, a 950-seat performance space that has hosted the likes of Willie Nelson to Peter Yarrow as well as numerous concerts and shows, and even our own farmers market, among others.”
Residents of On Top of the World enjoy a wide array of facilities, clubs and events as well as more than 250,000 square feet of recreation amenities including three golf courses, heated pools, whirlpool, tennis center and fitness classes. For the less athletically inclined, the recreation center offers a pub, library, billiards and men’s and women’s spas. Residents also have access to the Arbor Club Aquatic Center, including indoor and outdoor heated pools as well as a whirlpool and shower facilities, and to the Ranch Fitness Center. Both facilities offer fitness programming, albeit at very different levels.
The community is even pet-friendly. Outdoors, residents can bring pampered pooches to the dog park or for long walks on outdoor trails. In 2003, On Top of the World Communities pioneered an active adult continuing education program it aptly named “Master the Possibilities” (MTP). This program began very modestly with a few hundred course enrollments. In 2014, the program spun off from On Top of the World into an independent charitable 501(c)3 educational foundation. The program saw 32,000 course enrollments in 2014. Programming includes both classic educational programs as well as numerous other course offerings such as travel and learning programs.
In these well designed, leading-edge communities, a high quality of life means nothing without comfortable, energy efficient, well-built homes. The developer, who is also the primary builder, offers two- and three-bedroom layouts in a variety of styles, catering to the differing preferences and comforts of residents. Sidney Colen was a strong believer in construction integrity and quality building. This continues to be the hallmark of On Top of the World constructed homes.
Currently, On Top of the World gives homebuyers two distinctive communities within its gates to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics:
Windsor at Meridian Preserve
On Top of the World’s Windsor community is a mid-market neighborhood offering maintenance-free living, as well as a very active lifestyle focus. Windsor offers a range of single family homes for active adults, priced for affordable luxury. A gated entry with 24-hour staffing provides privacy. All homes are just a quick jaunt away from two private 18-hole golf courses and the aquatic and tennis center.
The developer’s Candler Hills community offers a more up-market approach to housing for active adults. Home and fully landscaped lot are designed for easy, low maintenance. As another gated community, Candler Hills offers 24-hour gate attendant and relaxation in privacy. As part of the On Top of the World family of neighborhoods, Candler Hills residents are also invited to participate in the more than 200 clubs as well as social activities and planned entertainment. The neighborhood is surrounded by a world-class 18-hole, semiprivate championship golf course which features the longest par 5 in Florida at 669 yards. Candler Hills, as noted by GolfAdvisor.com, has twice been ranked in the top 10 courses in the country.
The latest addition to Candler Hills is the Stonebridge neighborhood which features four new innovative estate home designs. Designed for how active adults choose to live today, the homes at Stonebridge range from 2,170 to 2,800 air-conditioned square feet and include three car garages, gourmet kitchens, multigenerational guest suites, oversized lanais and all exceed Energy Star Standards for energy efficiency. The four new decorated models have been well received with nearly 1,800 residents, realtors and prospective homebuyers touring them during the Model Grand Opening Mar. 21 and 22, 2015.The Lodge at Candler Hills, a new 16,000 plus square foot clubhouse located within Stonebridge, is currently in the planning stages. Designed to host events, activities and meetings, The Lodge will be the social hub for indoor and outdoor entertainment pursuits and will include a resort-style pool and areas for both formal and informal gatherings.
According to the company’s website, each new home is built with quality, steel reinforced, concrete block construction. All of the distinguishing features residents expect from a premier builder are standard in every home. Using superior materials and brands that homeowners know and trust, the On Top of the World team prides itself on designing and constructing a house that any resident can be proud to call home.
The business is a member of the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), Florida Homebuilder’s Association (FHBA) and the Association of Florida Community Developers (AFCD).further proving the team’s dedication to quality. “Every home we build is highly energy efficient and built to Florida Water Star conservation standards,” Kenneth adds.
With a focus on the environment, his team goes the extra mile to guarantee each home’s high performance energy efficiency by having it inspected by a third party energy auditor. Every new home On Top of the World build meets or exceeds Energy Star qualification criteria and the business has received awards for dedication to energy performance from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Preservation of nature is key to the preservation of the perfect lifestyle. Kenneth believes in the importance of preservation, stating, “We strive for environmentally responsible development and participate in many programs that do just that. Because of our deep commitment to the land, our homes and amenities are purposefully built to maintain our beautiful Florida habitats for generations to come, as well as bring residents years of comfort and pleasure. For over 65 years, this vision of stewardship and responsible management of our 13,000 acre community has guided us, and even resulted in a 2012 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.”
Passionate about people
Kenneth takes great pride in the communities and homes his team builds. More so than the development and construction end of the business, he loves working with people. “My favorite thing about working in this business is our residents,” he explains. “That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. We are not turn-and-burn developers; we stay with our communities and manage them as long as the residents want us there.
“I have a really great team to work with, too,” he adds. “Our employees show great professionalism and are dedicated to the quality of our communities.” That continued dedication is spurring growth for the business. The market is in slow recovery and Kenneth says the future looks promising for On Top of the World Communities Inc.
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