LAKEWOOD RANCH — From the view of Drs. Brad and Ashley Masuga, the time could not be more ripe for opening a new business — especially on Lakewood Ranch Main Street.
The couple signed a lease Jan. 13 for a space next to MacAllisters Grill & Tavern and Raymond James, making the plaza more than 98% leased.
Another business has issued a letter of intent and is expected to sign a lease for the final tenant space on Main Street this week.
“This is the first time ever since the center was a pipe dream,” Julia DeCastro, director of leasing and sales for Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, said of having the shopping center 100% leased for the first time.
Ashley Masuga and her husband plan to open In Focus Family Eye Care, an optometry office that sells glasses and other retail items, in early May.
“We live near Lakewood Ranch, and we know it’s an up-and-coming area,” Ashley Masuga said. “It’s an excellent place to be. You couldn’t ask for a better location to start a business when there are no vacancies.”
Lakewood Ranch Main Street celebrated the opening of Health Living Organics in December and Shirts and Stones in November. The University of South Florida will open its cooking school in the former Viking culinary center space in February.
Karen Ronney, vice president of the Main Street Merchants Association and co-owner of
MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, said the wave of new tenants has boosted the confidence of patrons visiting the plaza, and the morale of business owners.
“We had a guy in for lunch today who hadn’t been here in four years,” Ronney said. “He was surprised at how full of life the street was. There are a lot of nice, different stores. It lets the customer feel like it’s worth coming down.”
When Lakewood Ranch Main Street opened in 2005, its owners planned for it to be similar to St. Armands Circle — a high-end destination shopping center — out east. But the real estate market crash in late 2008 made them rethink that concept.
Lakewood Ranch developer and Main Street co-owner Schroeder-Manatee Ranch acquired Casto Lifestyle Properties’ 50% stake in the plaza in December 2009 and began making the center a destination for families.
Ronney also said the changes Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, a subsidiary of SMR, implemented have accomplished that goal. With stores such as Knot Awl Beads and Arts A Blaze and Main Street Travel, the plaza boasts an eclectic mix of family-friendly and higher-end shopping choices.
“It changed our focus, and it’s become a lot more realistic of what’s going to work (here),” Ronney said. “I think that’s why over the last year we’ve seen the spaces fill up.”
DeCastro said Main Street’s tenants consist primarily of family-owned businesses, and she has worked hard to create the right mix of specialty store offerings, without duplicating services.
“It’s trying to find that perfect hybrid,” DeCastro said of the street’s tenant mix. “The restaurants do great, but if people don’t shop in the stores, (it’s not working).”
“We try not to cannibalize the (business owners) who are here,” DeCastro said. “I feel like we’ve done this same thing with the restaurants. We (have) long-term (vision) for Lakewood Ranch.”
DeCastro said Main Street’s in-line design makes it harder to lease.
“We don’t have a lot of national brands because they require car counts,” she said. “To have a town center that’s 100% occupied in this market is just amazing.”
Offices on Main Street’s second level already are 100% occupied already.
For more information on Lakewood Ranch Main Street, visit lakewoodranch.com.
By the numbers
1 — Number of letters of intent and leases still out on Lakewood Ranch Main Street
8 — In years, how long it took Main Street to become fully leased for the first time
44,000 — In square feet, amount of office space on Lakewood Ranch Main Street
98 — Percent Main Street is leased without the final two tenants
157,822 — In square feet, total amount of retail and office space on Lakewood Ranch Main Street
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected]