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East County Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 8 years ago

SMR buys out partner in Main Street project

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — The future of Lakewood Ranch Main Street now lies soley with the company which first envisioned its creation.

In a deal that closed Dec. 31, Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch acquired Casto Lifestyle Properties’ 50% stake in the Lakewood Ranch Main Street project.

The agreement became public Jan. 8.

“(The acquisition) simply reconfirms SMR’s dedication to the project and the commitment to push forward into the future,” said Brian Kennelly, president of SMR subsidiary Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty, the company that oversees the Main Street’s management.

SMR and Casto have been joint venture partners since 2002, when Casto began guiding the development and management of Main Street on land provided by SMR.

The 158,000-square-foot, mixed-use project, which includes a movie theater, restaurants, retail-and-office space and residential condominiums, opened to the public in 2005 and has since become the “heart” of the Lakewood Ranch community through events such as Music on Main, Holidays Around the Ranch, art shows and others, Kennelly said.

SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen described the deal as a necessary step for enhancing the company’s ability to direct the future of the project and for ensuring the health of the Lakewood Ranch community as a whole.

“You have to start with the central reason we did this — Main Street is a key element of the equation of our success,” Jensen said. “Controlling such a key asset, we have an interest in probably doing some things with it that some other companies would not do.

“Now we don’t have anybody to talk to about how to do it,” he said. “I think the process will be a lot quicker. That’s the real difference.”

Jensen said there were several ideas for the plaza SMR is “going after” during the next year, but declined to give specifics until details were finalized.

“There’s going to be a steady stream of work,” he said. “One success is going to lead to another.”

Jensen said the company is working to make Main Street more family-friendly and better able to meet the day-to-day needs of residents, rather than trying to make it a destination spot as it was once envisioned.
The recent announcement that a miniature-golf course and an accompanying golf-and-novelty store are coming to Main Street is just one example of the company’s change in directive, which began about a year ago.

“It’s that kind of thing,” Jensen said, noting he’d like to see some sort of play gym or supervised-childcare facility join other businesses in the plaza. “The more you can get people to crawl around on Main Street, the more likely the merchants will be successful.

“The point is you’ve got to get something that is positioned more toward the daily needs of the community,” he said. “Main Street as an occupied asset works. But I think you’ve got to make it work for the residents.”

Kennelly said the transition for merchants on Main Street as well as visitors to the plaza will be seamless, because Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty has been handling leasing and management of the plaza for the last year.

Casto Lifestyle Properties President Brett Hutchens said his company is proud to have played a key role in the launching of Main Street and will begin focusing on new projects and opportunities.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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