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New home construction is going strong in neighborhoods north of State Road 70, such as in Harmony, pictured here, as well as other projects like Country Club East.
East County Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2017 2 years ago

Lakewood Ranch housing hits milestone

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At 10,000 homes, Lakewood Ranch is one-third grown up, and trends indicate it'll grow up even faster.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Lakewood Ranch still has plenty of growing to do, but the community has reached a new milestone — 10,000 homes sold.

In January, Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch announced it surpassed the 10,000-home mark with the sale of 86 new homes.

“To me, it speaks more to what’s ahead,” said Laura Cole, vice president of marketing for SMR subsidiary LWR Communities. “It’s a big accomplishment, but we’re about one-third of the way. This place is special. It has a critical mass for everything now. How is it going to evolve?”

SMR has secured rights to build more homes in Manatee and Sarasota counties, although specifics largely remain undetermined. In Manatee County, there are approvals for about 7,200 planned units, with major projects such as Del Webb and Lakewood National already underway. The remainder of the property in Manatee County, generally stretching north and east from the corner of Lorraine Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, is a roughly 4,500-acre blank canvas with details to come.

In Sarasota County, SMR secured rights in May 2014 to build 5,144 units in its future Waterside at Lakewood Ranch development, designed to capitalize on waterfront views created by SMR’s former shell mining operations.

SMR will build a town center with rental housing, shopping and dining, and has a spot within the development allocated for the future home of The Players Centre For Performing Arts. Homebuilders Pulte and Homes by Towne have committed to the first two residential projects, and an apartment complex also is in the plans.

In 2016, Lakewood Ranch sold 775 new homes, up from 535 in 2015.

In 2017, it’s already on pace to sell closer to SMR’s 900-home goal, possibly more. It’s difficult to predict if the market will sustain new growth trends, but indicators point to yes, particularly if SMR continues to diversify its housing options, Cole said.

Gregg Logan, managing director of RCLCO, a real estate advisory company that publishes a Top-10 list of master-planned communities each year, ranked Lakewood Ranch No. 4 nationally in 2016. Logan said SMR’s existing diversity of housing options lends itself to even faster growth.

Housing trends and data show millennials and baby boomers are creating a sustained demand. Baby boomers alone are coming at a pace of 100,000 per year.

“I think we’re going to see Lakewood Ranch continue to do stronger and stronger sales,” Logan said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of years from now, they’re doing a couple thousand sales a year. They have scale that is similar to other large-scale master-planned communities we’ve studied (that have done that).”

Logan said 75% of population growth is occurring in suburban areas, despite redevelopment efforts of cities across the country. Consumer preference surveys have shown RCLCO that people appreciate the lifestyle offered by master-planned communities.

Lakewood Ranch, in particular, has become a job center with shopping and recreational opportunities. More of those amenities are added each year, as well.

“It keeps getting better from a consumer perspective,” he said. “It continues to offer more.”

Cole said SMR continues to look for opportunities to diversity its housing options. New homes are priced from $180,000 to more than $1 million. With ample land remaining and a strong new home sales market, SMR not only will be able to attract large development companies, such as Lennar and Pulte Group, but also can find builders for smaller niche products that may not be found in other communities.

“I think scale is the biggest advantage Lakewood Ranch has,” Cole said. “I think Waterside is going to be a game-changer.”

It also must provide affordable and workforce housing in Waterside, a feat accomplished through conserving open space and having higher densities.

Sarasota County requires a combined 40% of housing in Waterside to meet its standards for “workforce” and “affordable” housing, meaning 2,037 homes have to be affordable to families (based on a family of four) where the income is 80% to 120% of area median income of $61,900 annually.

That means starting prices in Waterside will be as low as $183,000.

SMR also is working to ensure community infrastructure is in place before the first residents arrive.

In Waterside, the extension of Lorraine Road south to Fruitville Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to its southern property line is nearing completion. An extension of Deer Drive also is underway. SMR is committed to building Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south to Fruitville Road, but Sarasota County is still negotiating for rights of way. SMR has contracts in place to start construction of the road segment as soon as it gets the OK.

Farther north, in the area generally north of State Road 70 and east of Lorraine Road, the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District, a governing agency to fund, build and maintain infrastructure that is developer controlled, work has begun to build out future major roadways — Uihlein Road, Bournside Boulevard and extensions of Rangeland Parkway and 44th Avenue East — before homeowners move into neighborhoods. Design for those roadways has begun.

“It takes a year to design and permit a road, then another year to 18 months to build it,” said Bob Simons, president of SMR subsidiary LWR Development. “It’s a huge undertaking.”

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