The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee has signed a lease to occupy the former Viking Space on Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
Julia DeCastro, director of leasing for Lakewood Ranch Commerical Realty, said USF, which signed the lease Thursday, will use the space to run its culinary program.
"We like that there will be a connection between Lakewood Ranch and a major university," DeCastro said. "It will bring people to the Ranch who aren't normally here."
The signing comes after the former tenant went bankrupt.
Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, a subsidiary of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, reached an agreement in January with the trustee for the bankruptcy case of Extreme Remodelers of Sarasota, the parent company of the Viking Culinary Center.
LWR Main Street LLC purchased the furniture, fixtures and equipment in the center to ensure the space is used the same.
Extreme Remodelers, which did business as Paradise Homes, invested more than $1 million in high-end cabinetry, furnishings, Viking appliances and other design details for the school, which opened in September 2011 as one of 19 Viking cooking schools nationwide and the second school in Florida; it closed suddenly Oct. 24, 2012.
SMR had moved to recover possession of the Viking Culinary space, after Paradise Homes missed its September and October rent payments.
DeCastro said USF will change the name of the space and add green awnings to make it unique.
USF leased the 4,098-square-foot unit turnkey.
"They have everything they need," DeCastro said. "All they need is to bring in their food."
See the Oct. 24 East County Observer for more on this story.
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