LAKEWOOD RANCH — Piles of dirt are mounded along a stretch of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, bearing evidence the development of Lakewood Ranch’s newest community — and its first residential area north of State Road 70 — is well under way.
Developer Pat Neal, owner of Neal Communities, broke ground on his 372-acre Central Park project in August 2008, but, until now, the once-green pasture land has looked more like a bare plot of land than a future community.
But within the next two months, Central Park will begin to shape while the developer readies for a July grand opening.
“The earthwork is about 95% done,” said Chris Reese, vice president of land development for Neal Communities. “Now we’re finishing up utilities.
“Once you get on the roadwork, which is where I’m at, the process takes off,” he said. “You don’t see much happening until then. It’ll look like a new place in 60 days, I’d say.”
In some areas of the project, landscaping is already under way. Reese said landscaping on the project’s central feature — a 10-acre park with amenities such as a softball field, tennis courts, dog parks and a splash park — will begin within the next two months, as well.
Located on the east side of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard between Malachite Drive and the 44th Avenue extension, the project sits just north of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s Lakewood Centre project, which is proposed as a mixed-use, urban-downtown area.
“It will have a little bit more of a city feel,” Neal said of his project.
The project’s first phase will contain about 330 of a total of 780 homes. Model homes on either side of the park will be unveiled at the grand opening, Reese said. Model home construction is expected to begin by March.
Neal said the gated community largely will be modeled after Greenbrook, with close proximity to schools, a variety of offerings for families and retirees and “surprisingly low prices.”
The community, which was inspired by New York City’s Central Park, will include five neighborhoods, each with its own smaller park. Two neighborhoods will be maintenance-free.
Neal’s Vice President of Marketing and Creative Director Leisa Weintraub said the park is designed to create a space where residents can meet one another and develop their own interests.
“That’s really what we were looking for,” she said. “And, too, it will do a little bit of what Central Park was meant to do in New York and that’s to offer a respite from your daily life.”
Neal said he is confident the project will be successful, especially considering homes will be put on the market as the real-estate market rebounds.
Neal said Neal Communities will not be the exclusive builder for Central Park, although he has not yet announced which builders will be participating.
If You Go
A public meeting on the creation of a special taxing district in Central Park will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 5, at Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s headquarters, 14400 Covenant Way, Lakewood Ranch.
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