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Matt Devereaux, Lennar's vice president of sales for Southwest Florida, and Sen. Bill Galvano said Lakewood Ranch has become the premier residential housing hub in the Tampa area.
East County Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013 4 years ago

Lennar breaks ground on Bridgewater homes

by: Josh Siegel Staff Writer

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Building inside the award-winning master-planned Lakewood Ranch community is a privilege reserved for select homebuilders.

Homebuyers can only sign contracts with a builder in a group of primarily local homebuilders that Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, the community’s developer, has pre-approved. The condition has helped Lakewood Ranch grow on its own terms.

But, now, wed to its long-held No. 9 ranking among best-selling communities in America, SMR is changing its terms, opening them up to national brands that make the stakes — and the potential impacts — bigger.

Seated in the crowd at a July 24 groundbreaking ceremony for Lakewood Ranch’s newest community, Bridgewater at Lakewood Ranch, Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, looked at ease.

He’s comfortable that Lennar, a Miami-based company known locally for its work in Heritage Harbour, will be building the community, and he believes it fits nicely into a national homebuilder lineup that also includes Taylor Morrison and D.R. Horton.

“The national builders are giving us a look because of the critical mass we’ve hit,” Jensen said. “Lakewood Ranch has gained some credibility, and we are a proven product now.”

Lennar plans to about 280 new homes at Bridgewater, which is located off Pope Road.

Two home styles will be offered in the community. Homes in the Bridgewater Estate collection will range in size from 2,245 square feet to 3,828 square feet and in price from the high $300,000s to the high $400,000s. Manor Homes will range in size from 2,394 to 3,800 square feet and will run from the high $200,000s to the high $300,000s. 

Every home features a three-car garage and follows Lennar’s “everything included” philosophy, which includes luxury features, such as high-end appliances, security features and green-building and energy-consumption techniques.

“Lakewood Ranch is such an unbelievable opportunity for us and a place we’ve been wanting to build in for a long time,” said Matt Devereaux, Lennar’s vice president of sales for Southwest Florida. “We want to be in a place where people want to live. And people just don’t live here. It’s the whole lifestyle. We hope this is the first of many opportunities.”

Jensen gave Lennar the opportunity to build Bridgewater after SMR had originally planned to develop the 172-acre plot of land itself.

Lennar bought the property from SMR for $6.6 million in October.

“Lennar has been knocking on our door for a while, and we realized we had this ready-made project for them,” Jensen said. “We thought they’d be a good fit for the project type.”

Lakewood Ranch offers homes priced from $200,000 to $1.4 million. Developers expect Bridgewater to have its own niche in the Lakewood Ranch marketplace. Jensen says Bridgewater fits a step above neighboring community Central Park.

“We want to set prices levels that aren’t competitive with each other so the communities don’t cannibalize each other,” Jensen said. “You want everything to be synergistic, so that there are decent choices for everybody.”

Devereaux said Bridgewater’s four model homes will be furnished and viewable by mid-December.

Speculation homes, houses not built to order, will go under construction in as early as three months.

Meanwhile, Jensen says his roster of big builders will grow into the future.

“We’re trying to get past that No. 9 (ranking), and companies with a national market are helpful in getting us there,” Jensen said.

Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].

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