Excitement grows in Lakewood Ranch as Waterside Place business owners get their keys to begin their build-outs.
The sprinkles of rain at Waterside Place in Lakewood Ranch couldn't dampen the excitement shown by Michael Demarski, who was unlocking the front door of his future 3Form Fitness business.
"I was the first one to get the keys," Demarski said proudly, holding them up July 7 and shaking them a bit. "Being the first one, I can set the tone for the street. The vibe will be a lot of energy. It's an honor."
The fitness center occupies a key location on Lakefront Drive, directly across from the marina, where people are expected to arrive to the entertainment hub by water taxi.
"He probably will be our first tenant to open, and he does have good energy," said Monaca Onstad, the director of community relations for Lakewood Ranch Communities, which operates under the SMR umbrella. "His location is very visible and we believe his business will create a lot of movement for the center in general. We see people coming and going, working out, getting a cup of coffee. This will drive great traffic.
"Absolutely we have faith in him."
It appears Demarski will have some competition when it comes to becoming the first business to open at Lakewood Ranch. Besides 3Form Fitness, Onstad also said Smith Law is among the first businesses at Waterside Place to receive keys.
Chris Smith said he has run his law firm for 17 years in Lakewood Ranch and currently is headquartered in the Corporate Park. His new Waterside Place office, at 1561 Lakefront Drive, Suit 204, is only about a mile from his current office, which is at 5391 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., for the past 12 years. The first five years were on Professional Parkway in the Corporate Park.
"I've been eagerly watching this," Smith said of Waterside Place's development. "I jumped at this opportunity and I believe I was the first one to sign a lease two years ago, pre-construction. I love this environment and the mixed residential, retail and commercial aspect. It's a casual urban environment."
The way the Corporate Park was zoned, restaurants were not part of its make-up. Smith said if any of his employees or clients wanted a cup of coffee, they would have to get into their car and drive. Now he said they will be able to walk down the street.
When Smith received the keys to his new office, he was so excited he gathered his staff members and took them over to the new office. Unfortunately, while he had the keys to his office, he did't have the fob that allowed him to enter his building.
Obviously, Smith is eager to start construction, but he said a late October opening is most likely. Demarski said he would love to open in September, but he has set Oct. 1 as a goal to be more realistic.
Demarski said his plans for his 2,000-square-foot space are complete and his contractors are ready to go. All his permits have been approved, except for an issue with his bathroom construction which he expects to be sorted out any day. His first order of business will be to construct a wall that will separate the 4,000-square-foot space in half. He said the other side has not yet been leased.
He said he won't be doing any of the labor himself.
"That's definitely not my forté," he said.
The floor will be mostly rubber matting with a strip of artificial turf running down the center. Mirrors will cover half the wall space while an artist will cover much of the wall space with graffiti and murals.
Smith is going all out on his build-out as he never plans to move his office again. He said he went half-and-half on the build-out cost of $200,000 with SMR. The cost almost doubled after the pandemic due to the rise in building supplies.
"We are building a beautiful interior," he said of his second-floor office. "We are splurging with nice art features. Everything we are getting for this office is new."
While both business owners hope Waterside Place gets busy as quickly as possible, they said they are stable if customers aren't strolling the streets as soon as they open.
"Fortunately, we have the type of business we do, where our clients come to us," Smith said.
Demarski needs the new business, but he said he has "a following" of clients who can't wait for him to open.
3Form Fitness is a dream come true for Demarski, a 2007 Lakewood Ranch High graduate.
"It's been a dream to do this by myself," he said. "Everything I've done has moved me in this direction."
The 32-year-old has worked for many corporate fitness companies, such as LA Fitness, Crunch and the YMCA. Through his contacts, he has had potential financial backers push him to open his own facility, but he wanted to do it on his own.
"I started by cleaning floors at the YMCA (in Lakewood Ranch) when I was 17," he said. "Over the years I did well financially, so I can launch my idea."
His idea is to offer a program where everything is coached, and without the personal trainer rates. He said it is a hybrid that allows for affordable personal training. It was a model he put together years ago, and then waited for his opportunity.
His opportunity might also be the first opportunity for Waterside Place, which was expected to see businesses opening in May. The pandemic's effect on labor, cost of supplies and backlog of permitting have all caused that anticipated opening to move back. Demarski would like to charge forward and be the first to open in October.
Onstad doesn't want to speculate on the opening of Waterside Place, but she would like to schedule the move of the Market at Lakewood Ranch when the first businesses open. The Market currently is in the parking lot of Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.
It's likely when the Market at Lakewood Ranch does move, Demarski will be there to greet possible new clients.
"I have this beautiful end corner," he said with a smile. "I have space outside I can use for whatever I need. I fell in love with this unit right away. I've worked hard for this."
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