the history of divosta at waterstone
Otto “Buz” DiVosta, is the master builder who has built some 40,000 South Florida homes during the past 40 plus years. DiVosta is a world-renowned pioneer in the construction of solid-concrete structures and building efficiencies.
His construction methods and efficient processes with rigorous quality controls promote low maintenance, together with lasting beauty. No single name in the Florida building industry is more recognized or respected than DiVosta.
Otto "Buz" DiVosta, the founder of DiVosta Homes, built his first home while still in his teens. He built his first homes in Palm Beach County in the 1960s. He eventually became a principle partner of a major home development company based out of South Florida.
In 1975, DiVosta joined Clifford Burg to form Burg & DiVosta, a partnership that lasted until 1989. The new company combined Burg's construction experience with DiVosta's development company. After the split with Burg, DiVosta's business continued to grow as he developed the 1,600-home RiverWalk development west of Florida's Turnpike in West Palm Beach in the 1990s and expanded by moving his developments further north.
In the 1970s he developed a process for building multi-family homes in an assembly line fashion.He developed a quick-setting cement used in 1981 to build a three bedroom, two bath home, with two car garage, in seven hours and 35 minutes. The house was auctioned off with proceeds to be donated to the City of Palm Beach Gardens for a municipal swimming pool. This was believed to be a record breaking construction, beating a previous record of 19 hours held by U.S. Homes Corp. The average house normally takes about three months to complete.
His innovation created the Built-Solid Building System. Even though, DiVosta sold the company to Pulte Homes over 10 years ago, his tradition of quality, innovation, and value continue. DiVosta builds new patio homes and single family homes in communities in Orlando, Palm Bay, Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie, Sarasota, Naples and Bonita Springs.
As The Story Goes
Isie Steinberg retired to Florida with a mission: to buy a DiVosta home.
The former New Jersey judge had heard about DiVosta's "wonderful reputation," and he was among 2,500 people vying for 200 homes at a DiVosta community at Tradition in Port St. Lucie. Lucky for him, his name was the first drawn in a lottery.
Steinberg closed on his house in 2003, shortly before Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne and Wilma battered the region, but the poured-concrete structure didn't budge.
"It's a heck of a house," Steinberg said last week. "Their reputation is well-earned."
Steinberg isn't alone in raving about DiVosta. The popular home builder's fans are legion, and DiVosta Building Corp. has ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction for each of the four years that J.D. Power and Associates has surveyed buyers in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
During the past four decades, DiVosta has built about 40,000 homes in Florida, from the quaint houses at the successful Abacoa development in Jupiter to the suburban spreads in West Palm Beach's RiverWalk and Wellington's VillageWalk. Its name, which dates to the days of Burg & DiVosta, is synonymous with Palm Beach County home building.
Customers such as Steinberg swear its "BuiltSolid" motto is more than just hype. Yet in spite of its stellar brand and storied history, DiVosta has downsized dramatically.
Since 2006 there have been multipule layoffs at DiVosta. Parent Pulte Homes, who bought DiVosta in 1998, has moved DiVosta's headquarters from Palm Beach Gardens to Orlando, and it has decided to sell DiVosta's five-building complex in Palm Beach Gardens.
"There is no more DiVosta," said Steve Inglis, whose Bristol Management Services Inc. manages a number of DiVosta communities for homeowners associations. "It's a sad thing."
Blame it on housing slump.
- 1960s: DiVosta Construction Corp. builds 300 houses in the Jupiter area.
- 1970: DiVosta builds a 1,500-square-foot home in Jupiter in four days.
- 1975: DiVosta and Clifford F. Burg form Burg & DiVosta Corp. to combine Burg's construction experience with DiVosta's development company.
- 1978: Burg & DiVosta sells 584 apartments in Garden Lakes in Palm Beach Gardens in one day.
- 1981: DiVosta masterminds building a Palm Beach Gardens home on Hickory Drive in eight hours, using 550 workers and a chemical that causes concrete to harden in 90 minutes.
- 1982: Burg & DiVosta fights to win approval to build a four-story office building at the southwest corner of PGA Boulevard and Military Trail.
- 1984: The Bluffs of Jupiter, a 402-unit condominium community on the Intracoastal Waterway, sells out in a day, with buyers camping out overnight to buy. Town code enforcement officials cite Burg & DiVosta company for allowing camping on residential property.
- 1989: Burg & DiVosta faces angry residents who live around the company's Lake Catherine property. The residents want to halt development of the 96-acre property off Northlake Boulevard.
- 1989: Clifford Burg, 47, retires from his partnership with Otto and Betty DiVosta. DiVosta renames the firm DiVosta and Co.
- 1995: After agreeing to put up a plastic barrier to keep water from seeping out of the West Palm Beach Water Catchment Area, DiVosta wins a drainage permit to build the 1,600-home RiverWalk subdivision west of Florida's Turnpike on Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach.
- 1996: DiVosta and Co. takes over residential development of Abacoa in Jupiter after Town & Country Homes backs out of a deal to build the mixed-use development's first neighborhoods.
- May 1998: First residents move into the DiVosta-built New Haven community in Abacoa.
- July 1998: DiVosta sells his company to Pulte Homes.
- Sept 2006: DiVosta announces 135 layoffs in Sarasota.
- Dec 2006: DiVosta announces 218 layoffs at its Palm Beach Gardens headquarters.
- July 2007: After announcing an additional 206 layoffs in Palm Beach Gardens and 134 firings in Sarasota, DiVosta puts its Palm Beach Gardens headquarters up for sale.
Officials at Pulte, the nation's second-largest home builder, insist that DiVosta still exists, although it has refocused its efforts on Orlando and southwest Florida.
Pulte blames the wrenching housing slump for its decision to gut DiVosta. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based company said in 2007 that it would lay off 1,900 workers nationwide, or 16 percent of its workforce.
Pulte (NYSE: PHM) continues to use the DiVosta name on developments such as Mallory Creek at Abacoa and Waterstone in Palm Bay among others, but a company that once was the largest home builder in Palm Beach County now is only a minor player there.
"Even being the strongest builder with the best reputation and the best product can't protect you from a down market," said David Koon, a Pulte vice president who ran DiVosta before its recent reorganization. "There's nothing that can make you immune from the cyclical nature of the industry."
Some say changes at DiVosta have been inevitable since 1998, the year entrepreneur Otto "Buz" DiVosta sold his company to Pulte for $155 million.
Still, for years after buying DiVosta, Pulte mostly left the company alone. Inglis remembers Pulte honchos visiting DiVosta headquarters and vowing to learn from its unusual business model.
Inglis recalls Pulte Chairman William Pulte telling his executives, "I want you to learn from it, and I don't want you to change everything, because their profit margins are bigger than ours."
Buz DiVosta, now 77, retired from his company several years ago. Although there are rumors that he is unhappy about the dismantling of his namesake company, DiVosta isn't complaining publicly. He said in a brief phone interview in 2997 that he hasn't been involved in the company for years.
"I really have no idea what their strategy is going forward," DiVosta said.
Glen Trotta, a longtime DiVosta executive who left the company in 2004, called the downsizing an inevitable response to a slow market.
Why the DiVosta Success?
Housing experts credit DiVosta's atypical strategy for much of its success.
Although most home builders hire subcontractors to build houses, DiVosta used its own employees. Most buy materials from outside suppliers, but DiVosta made its own cabinets and trim.
And rather than overwhelm buyers with a dizzying variety of choices, DiVosta offered only a few selections. DiVosta's most famous innovation was an assembly-line approach that some compared to Henry Ford's high-volume Model T factories. Parts of houses were even assembled in advance and trucked to the site to be installed.
"When you bought a DiVosta house, you had about five selections," said Bruce Malasky, a Palm Beach County home builder and former owner of a DiVosta house. "You got a paint color, a cabinetry color and a carpet color, and that was about it."
The result of using in-house workers and of limiting choices? DiVosta could build homes far faster than its rivals. While the typical home took 90 days to build, a DiVosta structure went up in 47 days.
By refusing to let buyers customize homes, DiVosta sped up the building schedule.
"The customer couldn't move an electrical socket," said Brad Hunter of Metrostudy, a housing research firm.
Indeed, the one rap on DiVosta, even from satisfied customers such as Didier Dewaele of Abacoa, has been that it built "cookie-cutter" homes.
But Tim Vogel, owner of a DiVosta home in Abacoa, says he prefers sturdy construction and plenty of storage to a unique floor plan. Vogel particularly likes how the kitchen and living room offer plenty of space for his family.
"We love the house," Vogel said. "We're very impressed with how a 7- or 8-year-old house has held up."
Malasky, owner of Malasky Homes, likewise loved the DiVosta house he bought back in 1990.
"Dollar for dollar, it was the best home around," he said. "In their day, DiVosta built an unbelievable product."
Although DiVosta stressed speed of construction, the company also focused on customer service after the sale. When DiVosta workers visited her home for repairs, they always took off their shoes or put slippers over their boots, said Raquel Anderson, who owns a DiVosta home at Abacoa.
"They're very respectful," Anderson said.
But DiVosta fan Isie Steinberg frets that the days of that sort of fawning service`` are over.
"DiVosta is DiVosta in name only," Steinberg said. "It's Pulte now. It's sad."
Despite it now being over a decade since DiVosta sold his company to Pulte, it's easy to see his sprit in the design at The Lakes at Waterstone. His eye for detail, his tradition for quality, innovation, and value carries on.
The original Waterstone PUD was approved in October 2005 and consisted of three different communities totaling 1800 dwelling units. Portions of The Lakes and Heron Bay had been completed, but The Isles had not come to fruition. The majority of land within The Isles was sold to Waterstone Farms by DiVosta Homes and was no longer a part of the Waterstone PUD.
However, DiVosta/Pulte intends to complete The Lakes and Heron Bay communities as two independent, self-sustaining neighborhoods with their own recreation amenities.
The Lakes, originally planned for 839 homes and 7.5 recreation acres, would now consist of 101 homes and 4.2 acres of recreation. Heron Bay, originally planned for 490 homes and 4.61 recreation acres, had been lessened to 202 homes and 1.85 acres of recreation.
The Lakes would be separated and buffered by waterways, cohesive walkways, extensive landscaping, fencing, extended berms, and the existence of bridges.
Approximately three acres of buffer land had to be repurchased from Waterstone Farms to accommodate The Lakes residents to the southeast. As a result, there would be no loss of lots, no increase in homeowner association dues, more room for parking, no impact from the lighted tennis courts, less noise, and more privacy.