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East County Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021 3 months ago

Class Act: From the Ground Up

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Casto President Brett Hutchens strongly feels the pulse of the Lakewood Ranch community. After all, he has been part of its growth since nearly the beginning.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

A decade ago, Brett Hutchens’ dealings in Lakewood Ranch were limited to the master-planned community’s successful Main Street, which his development firm had completed.

But in 2012, Hutchens’ Casto Southeast Realty Services relocated its headquarters from Sarasota to an office building on Energy Court in the master-planned community, in part to be closer to highways and Tampa’s major airport.

Three years later, Hutchens moved his personal residence to the 31,000-acre community as well, after realizing that his social and professional center had shifted.

When he’s not working, for instance, Hutchens often can be found on the links at The Concession Golf Club nearby in Manatee County, where he’s been a member for many years.

“Developing Main Street with (master developer) Schroeder-Manatee Ranch really gave me a unique insight into Lakewood Ranch,” says Hutchens, Casto Southeast’s president and managing partner.

“We could feel the pulse of it. There’s a real community here, and it’s been done meticulously, which is compelling,” adds Hutchens, 74. “It’s a relaxed lifestyle.

“Our company has projects all over the country and in Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa, so proximity to Interstate 75 is critical for me and our property management, leasing and development folks,” says Hutchens, who moved to Sarasota in the mid-1990s because his grandparents had vacationed there.

In addition to his business endeavors, Hutchens’ philanthropic efforts often require the former Cincinnati corporate lawyer to travel extensively.

Chief among them is the Children’s Miracle Network, which Hutchens became involved with in the early 1980s at its inception, when he was a top executive of an Ohio-based restaurant chain.

The charity, led by singer Marie Osmond, actor John Schneider and NFL football star-turned-actor Merlin Olsen, has since raised $8 billion and benefits more than 170 children’s hospitals in North America.

Hutchens has been on the group’s board for 37 years — the longest tenure of any of its members.

“It’s been an amazing success,” he says of the Children’s Miracle Network. “Helping children is really something that resonates with me, and to see the tangible benefits has been a great thing.”

Roper Technologies will be located in a 42,000-square-foot office building in Center Point.

Closer to home, Hutchens also is a board member of the All Star Children’s Foundation, a charity spearheaded by Dennis and Graci McGillicuddy that benefits children in foster care.

Although he enjoys traveling, hiking and spending time with family, Hutchens and his wife, Fabienne, recently cemented their ties to the Ranch when they acquired a condominium that better fits their active lifestyle.

The couple is just a 10-minute walk away from Main Street.

“The way the community is managed is very predictable, and that gives me a lot of comfort,” Hutchens says. “And we like feeling like we’re part of a larger community.”

Casto Southeast has helped build communities nationwide for decades, through the revival of flagging retail projects and ground-up developments that transformed cities and suburbs alike.

In Sarasota, Casto Southeast developed the Whole Foods Market Centre and adjacent condos; in Winter Park, it converted an old shopping mall into the $60 million Winter Park Village; and in Raleigh, North Carolina, the company developed a 100-acre, mixed-use center with apartments and retail space.

Its best-known project, however, may be the redevelopment of the Randhurst Mall — Illinois’ oldest enclosed shopping center — where it turned an aging retail hub into a $150 million lifestyle center with residences and retail space.

“He has immense integrity, he’s extremely likeable, very creative and a good communicator,” Sheryl Crosland, a former J.P. Morgan & Co. executive who worked with Hutchens on the Randhurst Mall conversion, says of him.

Hutchens’ contribution to Lakewood Ranch will grow in the next year, too, when Casto Southeast completes a 50-acre, mixed-use development at the intersection of University Parkway and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

Center Point will feature a three-story medical office building and a new 42,000-square-foot office building for Roper Technologies Inc. But the project’s heart will be retail and restaurant space.

Sarasota’s Owen’s Fish Camp is expected to open within Center Point, and Tampa Italian eatery Olivia has signed on as well.

Largely organic Chamberlin’s grocery, Woodies Wash Shack car wash, McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, Fifth Third Bank and TD Bank have also signed on.

Casto Southeast plans to complete the entire 250,000-square-foot project by the end of 2022.

“Lakewood Ranch is so attractive from a variety of perspectives,” Hutchens says. “And the stewardship of the property is really unusual. The expectations on you as a developer are high, but we’re comfortable with that, and as a resident, that’s part of what makes this such a special place.”

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