Toll Bros.: Back to the 'burbs?

Toll Bros. has joined Orange County Calif. landowner Shea Baker Ranch LLC in a project to develop 1,780 single-family homes and 414 apartments in three "villages" in Lake Forest, Calif., on one of the last big (200 acre) tracts left in the fabulously suburban county near Los Angels, Toll says here.

Does this mark Toll's return to high-end suburban sprawl, after a recessionary re-focus on apartments in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philadelphia, Seattle and other urban markets?  

Toll's single-family-homes percentage has fallen from 72% in 2003 to 53% in 2011. More here.

Still: "Suburban development has continued to be the main focus of our business even during the downturn," says Frederick N. Cooper, Toll svp. "Suburban move-up housing accounts for about 50% of our business," plus up to 20% for suburban "empty nesters" and "active adult" homes and apartments.

 "The urban projects have tended to get more publicity and New York City in particular has performed especially well through the downturn and thus has gotten more attention, but we have not moved away from our core business - just diversified more."  

Wall St. Journal estimates Toll invested $100 million in the Orange County deal; Toll won't comment.

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