In a moribund housing construction environment, Florida’s mixed-use Lakewood Ranch seems about as out of place as a snowball in an orange grove. Several projects totaling $100 million will be built this year at the ambitious development from Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc., straddling Sarasota and Manatee Counties on the Sunshine State’s west coast.
The projects include a 380-acre neighborhood by Neal Communities featuring homes for 800 families and a 150,000 square-foot shopping center; a school of dental medicine; the 272-unit Lost Creek apartment community; and Esplanade, by Taylor Morrison, the ranch’s first active-adult community.
Lakewood Ranch isn’t a ranch in name only. It is an actual ranch, owned for decades by the Uihlein family of Milwaukee’s Schlitz Brewing fame. Of the original 30,000 acres, approximately 8,000 have been developed since 1995. “It’s still an active ranch, and we raise cattle, grow citrus and tomatoes, have a tree farm and a sod farm and an aggregate mining business,” Brian Kennelly, president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, tells MHN. “The family had a vision for a master-planned mixed-use development, and began planning for that in the 1980s.”
The development now includes 7,000 homes, as well as 4 million square feet of commercial space, including a hospital, two hotels and three grocery stores, Kennelly says. About 15,000 people live at the ranch, and it is home to more than 12,000 daytime jobs, many in real estate, finance and insurance.
Lost Creek, with several three-story walkup buildings slated for completion in December, is the second Lakewood Ranch apartment community, following the unveiling of 288-unit Colonial Grand in the late 1990s. The apartments are being developed by P.A.C. Land Development Corporation of Winter Park, Fla.
Multifamily rental plays a couple key roles for Lakewood Ranch, Kennelly says. “The owners didn’t want to build a residential community, they wanted an economic engine, and they have a goal of two jobs for every home,” he says. “Multifamily attracts new employers to the ranch, given that it has appropriate housing types for every level of employee. The other important role is that the multifamily projects have served the purpose of providing temporary housing while new single-family homes are being built in the community.”
Some 130 miles of paved and unpaved sidewalks and trails ribbon across the ranch. “The walkability is an important part, and to that end, we’ve tried to create four neighborhood centers with shopping, spread throughout the ranch,” Kennelly says. “We’ve worked closely with the Manatee County School District, and embedded the schools within the neighborhoods, so kids can walk or bike to school rather than having to take a bus.”
Public transportation doesn’t currently serve the area east of I-75 where Lakewood Ranch is situated. But stakeholders are working with both counties to extend service east of the interstate to Lakewood Ranch. “We’ve set aside land for inter-modal transportation centers,” Kennelly says.
Opportunities exist in the years ahead to triple the size of development seen in the last 15 years. “We’re only scratching the surface,” he says.