LAKEWOOD RANCH — With more than 7,300 homes and 2.5 million square feet of office space, Lakewood Ranch isn’t the typical community.
And it can’t be developed that way either.
“When you have 20,000 people like we have, we have to have things (developers wouldn’t normally have, like carwashes),” said Schroeder-Manatee Ranch President and CEO Rex Jensen, who shared about the history of his company, why Lakewood Ranch was developed and how it happened during the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance’s September membership luncheon Sept. 8 at The Polo Grill and Bar’s Fête Ballroom.
Schroeder-Manatee Ranch started in the early 1900s by John Schroeder as a timber plantation, Jensen said. The operation, later acquired by the Uihlein family, slowly added other components, first with cattle and eventually sod and tree farming and shell mining. Later, it added, residential and commercial real estate, among other components.
“We’re in the asset-management business,” Jensen said of SMR’s present operation. “The sum total of it is, the thing to do with this property at this time and for its future.
“The values that come from this (founding) family characterize this property,” he said. “We are stewards.”
Jensen noted how SMR, particularly in the 1970s and early 1980s, had to fight the image that development would never occur east of Interstate 75. Sarasota County, in particular, opposed the idea, proposing SMR’s land for a landfill and even a new airport, the latter of which SMR learned about only by reading the newspaper.
“They felt they needed to develop a vision for their own property,” Jensen said of SMR’s leaders.
After the company took an inventory of its assets — soils, vegetation, hydrology of the land, as well as what the property would be most suitable for — it began developing plans.
The Cypress Banks development of regional impact, now home to Summerfield and Greenbrook, was submitted to the county in 1984 and consisted of 300 hotel rooms, 5,000 condos and single-family homes and three golf courses. At the time, Manatee County asked for SMR to wait as it developed a comprehensive plan for land development, Jensen said.
Roughly five years later, the county had its plan in place and SMR moved forward. It gained development approvals for its first residential community around 1991, having made adjustments to the proposal so it would be compatible with the market demand and other details.
Since that time, Jensen said, the company has worked hard to develop strong public-private partnerships, grow economic and other development and continue to cast vision for its future.
The company is developing plans for its first age-targeted community, as well as apartments and a sports complex, Jensen said.
SMR celebrates the 15th anniversary of the sale of its first home next month.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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