LAKEWOOD RANCH — Kirk Boylston has traveled across the country to compete in adventure racing — a combination of endurance sports such as mountain biking, paddling and climbing — and he has even participated in three X Games, the extreme sports event run by ESPN.
The endurance competitions may prove good preparation for his new job as president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, a subsidiary of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
To make Lakewood Ranch nationally known, Rex Jensen, the CEO and president of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch who values continuity and often hires in-house, looked far outside the familiar — sort of.
Jensen hired Boylston, a Siesta Key-born real estate professional and University of Florida graduate who has spent his 20-year-plus career on the West Coast of the United States, to lead SMR’s commercial real estate division into national prominence.
“We can accommodate almost anything,” Boylston said in a Feb. 18 interview at SMR’s headquarters, a week and a half before he begins work March 3.
“And there’s more that can be done. Lakewood Ranch hasn’t been sought after nationally. Everything that an executive or resident wants is already here: schools, hotels, retail, universities, skilled employees.
Now, it’s a matter of getting the word out.”
Boylston, most recently a regional director of EJM Development Co., where he oversaw a portfolio of more than 5.5 million square feet of commercial space in southern Nevada and developed the largest commercial master-planned product in Las Vegas, replaces Brian Kennelly, who left the position in September.
After spending the last decade in Las Vegas, known for its one-trick economic sector, gaming, Boylston calls his new opportunity — a chance to return home and continue the job of filling 32,000 acres of land with commercial property — limitless.
Jensen is banking that Boylston, a Riverview High School graduate, can use his national ties to market Lakewood Ranch. He is the Nevada representative on the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties board of directors and a council member for the Urban Land Institute.
“We started with the intention to reach a certain critical mass,” Jensen said of Lakewood Ranch, which has 4 million square feet of commercial space. “What we want to do is get Lakewood Ranch on the radar of national relocation firms and brokerage firms that do the research for the businesses. We drop through the cracks on big things. We want to change that. He is the perfect guy to do that.”
Jensen said Boylston’s retail experience fits with where Lakewood Ranch wants to go. Las Vegas has a commercial vacancy rate of 23%. In comparison, the retail component of the master-planned The Arroyo poject Bolson oversaw is 90% leased.
“He has significant retail experience, so we can build on what the mall (at University Town Center) is doing,” Jensen said. “That is a big part of the, ‘Why him?’”
For Boylston, the decision to work close to home was a long time coming.
Growing up, he didn’t want to ever leave.
In high school, Boylston worked with sharks at Mote Marine Laboratory and had planned to become a biologist.
But Boylston wanted to keep his hobbies separate from his career.
He became interested in real estate in college, and upon graduating, moved to California because he thought, at the time, it was the best place to do large-scale, master-planned development.
He hasn’t left the West Coast since.
Boylston and his wife, Christie, and son, Morgan, 13, would travel to Siesta Key for a few weeks every year, but, every time, pack up and head west.
His mother, Gay, a retired teacher, is ecstatic he is back home.
“I am really familiar with the area,” Boylston said. “I hadn’t always wanted to come back to Florida, and I had assumed it would be to the east coast, where I thought there was more opportunity. I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity on the east or west coast of Florida than Lakewood Ranch.”
Boylston may know the area well, but he still has to explore all of Lakewood Ranch’s acres.
He arrived in Lakewood Ranch Feb. 15, and had lunch Feb. 18 with Todd Pokrywa, SMR’s vice president of planning, to get up to speed on the politics of Sarasota/Manatee.
Then, the same day, he flew back to his home in Summerlin, a master-planned community in Las Vegas, where he still has two weeks remaining at his former job.
Boylston is tasked with finding his replacement there.
For someone who will have the chance to smartly grow Lakewood Ranch — the wait will be worth it.
“A lot of times in real estate, you go place to place to get where you want to go and it’s a long, drawn out process,” Boylston said. “And if you’re good at development, it takes a ton of patience. Major projects like Lakewood Ranch can outlive you.”
Hometown: Siesta Key
College: University of Florida
New Job: President of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty
2003-present. Regional director at EJM Development Co., Las Vegas
1997-2003. Partner at Triliad Development Co., Westlake Village, Calif.
1995-1997. Office properties specialist at Grubb & Ellis Co., Sherman Oaks, Calif.
1991-1995. Asset management real estate development at Weyerhaeuser Mortgage Co., Woodland Hills, Calif.
1987-1991. Vice president/project manager at Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, Westlake Village, Calif.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].