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East County Wednesday, Jul. 28, 2010 7 years ago

Plaza construction progresses

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — Walmart Stores Inc. has scaled back on the size of its super center store planned for the Ranch Lake Plaza, just east of Interstate 75 on the south side of State Road 70.

Daniel Morales, media director for Walmart’s southern region, said site work for the store is under way, and construction likely will start in early 2011. The nearly 148,000-square-foot store, which was originally proposed at about 176,000 square feet, will take about one year to complete and will not include a Tire Lube Express.

“We are really focusing on improving our current stores, and we wanted to make sure our current stores (being remodeled were taken care of),” Morales said. “We still think it’s the right opportunity to start on this new property. The date has been moved some, but not a lot.”

The new store will be Walmart’s new prototype, which includes wider aisles, fresh colors, lower profile shelves and adjacencies within the store to help shoppers find items more quickly, Morales said.

“It’s all about offering a cleaner, faster, friendlier experience in our stores,” he said.

The Walmart site is part of the 245-acre River Club Park of Commerce project, now called Ranch Lake Plaza. The property stretches to I-75 from Linger Lodge Road to State Road 70. Original site plans for the project’s S.R. 70 frontage show a 278,000-square-foot shopping center that included a 180,000-square-foot anchor space. The overall project also may include a 120-room hotel, parking garages, office space and town homes and apartments.

Walmart purchased the 41.1 acres on which it is developing from Casvack River Club LLC for $11.65 million in late 2008.

The new store is expected to create between 300 to 400 jobs, Morales said.

Casto Lifestyle Properties, the company developing the commercial part of the property, plans to construct 38,000 square feet of commercial space plus five out parcels — possibly a bank, restaurants and a hotel — around the Walmart property.

Casto President and CEO Brett Hutchens said the company will finish infrastructure for the plaza in the fall and likely will begin construction early next spring.

Construction on the new shopping center would take about seven months and would be completed about the same time Walmart is expected to open, he said.

Hutchens said Casto has no other deals for the commercial center, but the project has garnered interest from prospective tenants.

“We haven’t marketed it yet, and we probably won’t until it gets closer to the time it starts,” he said. “We’re continuing to wait.”

Developer Village Partners, a venture between Investors Realty and Carr Investment, is moving forward with plans to build a 336-unit apartment complex on a 40-acre parcel just south of a 16-acre lake and roughly along I-75 on the western edge of the Ranch Lake site.

John Marling, a partner in the project, said plans for the Village at Ranch Lake Apartment Community, are nearly complete with engineering and architectural plans finished. The company is still working on financing details but expects to begin construction on the project at the end of the year.

“Maybe a little sooner,” Marling said.

Marling said he expects the clubhouse, amenities and first units to be available to prospective residents about eight months after construction starts. The remainder of 14 total three-story buildings will be delivered from the contractor every 35 days, meaning the project will be finished within 14 months of the beginning of construction.

To the south of the property, closer to Linger Lodge, the developer also may build an assisted living facility, but no plans are definite at this point, Marling said.

Village Partners has completed more than 3,000 units together over 11 years, including 400 units it just finished near Disney, Marling said.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

Signage along State Road 70 now points to Linger Lodge.

A small blue sign marking the famed and notoriously hard-to-find Linger Lodge Restaurant went up about two weeks ago near the intersection of S.R. 70 and the recently opened Ranch Lake Boulevard.

General Manager David LaRusso said the establishment applied for the sign with the Florida Department of Transportation about a year ago and now is eager to have it in place. The results have been instantaneous.

“It’s been a lot easier for folks to find us,” LaRusso said. “It’s actually easier to give directions coming from I-75, especially for those who are coming from the south.”

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