Mapping Out Florida’s Biggest Land Grabs of 2023 - Law & the Land - Rabideau Klein

Mapping Out Florida’s Biggest Land Grabs of 2023

Florida is making national headlines for being home to some of the largest real estate deals in 2023. In what was a banner year for land sales, real estate developers and their lawyers will tell you that both private investors and big business are getting in on the action.

A Family Tradition

Several successful families—and their heirs—have established land dynasties throughout Florida, with several topping Forbes’ list of largest landowners. These ‘family companies’ set up with their own Florida real estate lawyers and developers have dominated the Florida landscape. Chief on that list includes the Collier family, founders of Naples-based Barron Collier Companies and Collier Enterprises, who own around 280,000 acres in Southwest Florida. With a net worth of 2.3 billion, the Colliers are among America’s richest families and was ranked as the eighth largest landowner in the U.S. in 2015.

The Lykes family, founders of Tampa-based Lykes Bros. Inc., owns more than 600,000 acres across Florida and Texas. They own Lykes Ranch which, at 337,000 acres, is one of the largest contiguous stretches of land in Florida, and is home to cattle as well as forestry, sugar cane and landscaping operations.

Land is Big Business in Florida Real Estate Developers and Lawyers

Large corporations have also staked huge real estate claims. Representing Big Sugar are West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals Corporation with 194,500 acres and U.S. Sugar with 154,000 acres. Florida Crystals uses its land holdings to produce sugar cane and rice, with leftover sugarcane used to create biomass for power generation. U.S. Sugar produces around 700,000 tons of cane per year, accounting for approximately 10% of all cane sugar produced in the U.S. The company also manages citrus and sweet corn production.

Bascom Southern is a Portland, Oregon-based timber company that owns 194,000 acres of land in Florida. The company manages timberland and other natural resources across Florida and several other states.

The Watersound-based asset management and real estate development firm St. Joe Company holds 171,000 acres. Once the state’s largest private landowner, St. Joe sold over 380,000 acres to the Mormon Church.

Minnesota-based phosphate mining firm Mosaic Company owns a whopping 380,000 acres of land in Florida. Mosaic is the largest phosphate supplier in the world and mines all its phosphate in Florida. Almost two thirds of its land holdings in Florida have been mined for phosphate, a key ingredient in everything from fertilizer, food, and cosmetics to animal feed and electronics. The company has also put its mined land to other uses. Mosaic developed and eventually sold the Streamsong Golf Resort in Bowling Green, Florida. Mosaic is the fifth largest landowner in Florida.

Who Owns the Most Land in Florida?

The record-holder for most land owned by a single entity in the state of Florida is none other than the Mormon Church, with a total of 678,000 acres purchased. This beats out even the Roman Catholic Church in Florida, which is the largest landowner in the entire world, with more than 172 billion acres.

One of the church’s biggest Florida land holdings is the Deseret Ranches, which is composed of several organizations, including Deseret Ranches of Florida and Deseret Cattle & Citrus, which spreads across Osceola, Orange, and Brevard counties, covering almost 300,000 acres. 90 ranchers live on the ranch with their families, where they maintain over 44,000 head of cattle. Collectively, Deseret Ranches is the most productive cattle ranch in the U.S.

Top 5 Florida Land Grabs of 2023

  1. FP&L: The largest utility in Florida, Florida Power and Light, paid $212 million in November in a record-breaking buy for the 40,000-acre El Maximo Ranch in south Osceola County. While the Florida realtors and lawyers involved have been hush, hush and FP&L have not yet officially revealed plans for the land, it has been suggested the it may house a solar farm, large enough to handle the biggest solar array in in North America.
  1. Itram Investments: The Orlando based company focuses on acquisitions of high-profile, infill retail properties and build-to-suit developments throughout Central Florida, as well as investments in the food service industry in several states. The company paid $96 million for 460 acres between World Center Drive and S.R. 417. Their Florida real estate lawyers and developers are working on plans to develop a mix of retail, multifamily, and entertainment options “in the shadow of Disney theme parks.”
  1. Lennar: The Miami-Dade-County based home construction company purchased Sugarloaf Mountain from Richland Communities in Lake County for a mind-blowing $77.2.million. the deal included two subdivisions with entitlements for 812 residential lots from Richland Communities.
  1. Cadence Partners: The Orlando-based company has developed over 1.9 Million square feet of industrial real estate in the state of Florida. Last June, the company made national headlines for its $48.5 million purchase of a 104-acre parcel in the Kelly Park area of Apopka. The sale is related to a massive project currently underway—the 300-acre Wyld Oaks mixed use plan being developed by Kelly Park VB Development, LLC, a subsidiary of Vero Beach-based Evans Properties.
  1. Sun Terra Communities for Pulte: Funded by JEN Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, Sun Terra’s website says they make land investments in the Florida marketplace through asset purchasers, joint ventures, land banking and note purchases. Last November, the company, along with the seller known as Chicone had their Florida real estate lawyers ink a deal for 304 acres of land along Clermont’s Wellness Way corridor for $33 million. The plan; Pulte Homes is approved to build nearly 1000 homes and 75000 square feet of commercial property along Wellness Way Boulevard in Claremont, which is just west of Orlando.

Contact Florida Bar Board-Certified Attorneys David E. Klein, Esq. and Guy Rabideau at They have the expertise and experience you need to ensure that your interests are protected throughout your real estate transactions across the Palm Beaches and throughout the state. Contact Rabideau Klein to discuss the legal implications of your next Florida property transaction.

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