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East County Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2019 7 months ago

SMR CEO/president urges Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance to support brain study

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Rex Jensen delivers State of the Ranch address at Grove.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch CEO and President Rex Jensen made a passionate plea March 20 for Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance members to support the new Lakewood Ranch Study of Brain Health.

Jensen was delivering a "State of the Ranch" address to the Alliance at The Ballroom at Grove in Lakewood Ranch. A crowd of more than 300 Alliance members and guests were in attendance.

SMR announced March 12 a collaboration with the Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Academy for Brain Health and Performance to do the study. SMR donated $600,000 of the $1.6 million needed for the study to get off the ground.

Jensen urged the Alliance to develop a funding campaign, and suggested a three-year period to collect funds.

He said the study will create amazing business opportunities and will attract new residents.

"We need to make this land in Lakewood Ranch," he said, adding he would run around the community with a tin cup if necessary.

After briefing the Alliance on Lakewood Ranch's major accomplishments over the past two years, Jensen also asked the Alliance for its support when he goes to the Sarasota County Commission, most likely in June or July, to ask its approval for a new workforce housing program. More than 5,000 homes are being built in the new Waterside at Lakewood Ranch, all in Sarasota County, and the county currently has affordable housing requirements on approximately 2,000 of the homes.

Other highlights included Jensen talking about 28 miles of roads currently under construction by SMR, including the extension of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south to Fruitville Road. Construction is expected to be finished in 2020.

He told the Alliance that SMR is working with FDOT to identify hot spots on State Roads 64 and 70 and to ultimately make those areas safer.

Jensen said representatives of the Sarasota County Public Schools have contacted him about the possibility of building a K-12 school in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park. Waterside residents currently are zoned into Booker High School. Jensen called it an "outside-the-box" concept.

The vertical portion of the Waterside Place project will begin in August. He said the building cycle should be about 24 months.

He said the Players Centre for Performing Arts is on schedule for Waterside Place and added the theater group is working on some "changes." Players Centre Chair Donna DeFant said that, indeed, is correct but said an announcement would be coming soon and she wouldn't elaborate further.

SMR has closed on four square miles of property, purchased from Jay Taylor, along the new Bournside Road and south of State Road 64 and is moving some of its agricultural interests, such as sod farms, there as much of the northeast quadrant is committed to housing.

Lakewood Ranch also has expanded as developer Pat Neal purchased 450 acres north of Fruitville Road and made an agreement with SMR to add it to LWR.

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