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East County Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010 7 years ago

Bowling alley project in the gutter

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Despite foreclosure proceedings against the second major entertainment facility planned for Lakewood Ranch, the community’s developer said it is still committed to creating an entertainment hub for East County residents.

On Feb. 19, First Federal Bank of Florida filed foreclosure actions against Hubbard Entertainment, the entity that had planned to build a 40-lane bowling alley with a billiards game room, video-game café and restaurant off Center Ice Parkway, for defaulting on two loans. The bank is seeking more than $1.3 million in principal, interest and other fees from the company and from Richard Hubbard Jr., and Yvonne Hubbard, who guaranteed the loans would be paid.

Rex Jensen, president of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, said despite the news, he is confident the location one day will be home to the entertainment hub SMR originally envisioned.

“I think we’ve got an unfolding tragedy here with probably a lot of different causes,” he said of the foreclosure action. “My vision for (the property) is still an entertainment center, and the deed restriction still says that.”

SMR demolished the remnants of a failed hockey arena project just east of the bowling alley site in November 2009 after foreclosing on that 60-acre property last April.

The foreclosure action against Hubbard Entertainment makes the second failed entertainment venture planned for the area deemed as Lakewood Ranch’s future entertainment hub.

Jensen said Lakewood Ranch families continue to ask for entertainment offerings in the East County, a fact that has him committed to the concept and confident it will be picked up by the business community — in time.

“This whole area could use an entertainment district,” he said. “If I were to get too serious about financing such a thing, I think the financial institutions would have me straight-jacketed. Right now, there’s no sense in pressing it.”

Jensen said he suspected the bowling alley project was in jeopardy because he did not see any progress being made on the facility, which originally was scheduled to open in March 2009.

“The Hubbards are a good family,” Jensen said. “They are the kind of people I would like to do business with at some level and in the future. I’m sorry it didn’t work out as we’d hoped.”

Jensen said he, at least in part, blames the county for tragedy, asserting it took almost three years to get the project through zoning and permitting and the county had suggested charging $850,000 for impact fees on a project that would keep road trips in the area.

“That is ludicrous,” Jensen said. “This was basically something everybody wanted anyway. That is anti-business.”

Richard Hubbard III, speaking for his parents Dick and Yvonne Hubbard, declined to comment specifically about the foreclosure but confirmed the family had difficulty with getting the property rezoned and permitted in a timely manner. High impact fees, he said, were what “broke the camel’s back.”

“It’s tough financing something from the ground up,” Hubbard said. “I would still love to be out there in Lakewood Ranch. It would have been great.”

Hubbard said business at Sarasota Lanes has been strong, especially in the last several months. The Hubbard family, he said, is continuing to look for “alternative situations” for providing their services to the East County community.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

Sharla Fouquet, impact fee coordinator for Manatee County, said the $850,000 impact fee was a general commercial estimate provided to the Hubbard family at their request. However, Hubbard Entertainment was responsible for conducting its own impact fee study because the property is being used for a non-standard use. No study, to her knowledge, had ever been completed or turned in to the county.

Fouquet noted the impact fees on the property today would be about half the original estimate — about $425,000.

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