As 2017 opens, the southernmost section of Lakewood Ranch is covered in piles of dirt and stone, without a hint of the project about to spring to life.
By summer, though, the landscape of Waterside will begin to take shape with sparkling lakes, newly constructed homes and neatly manicured lawns.
Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s first major foray into Sarasota County — Waterside at Lakewood Ranch — will be open for business with two homebuilders offering houses for sale. SMR also will finalize plans for the project’s downtown area as well.
“This is the year for Waterside,” said Rex Jensen, president of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
At buildout, Waterside at Lakewood Ranch is slated to have 5,144 residential units, 390,000 square feet of commercial space, 90,000 square feet of civic space and hundreds of acres of preserves and wetlands on 5,500 acres.
The Waterside project generally runs from Interstate 75 to east of Lorraine Road between University Parkway and Fruitville Road. It is located immediately south of the Sarasota Polo Club and the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park.
The first phase of residential construction will include about 775 units, primarily single-family homes with some condominiums or townhomes, across two parcels. Nearly every homesite will include waterfront property.
The development’s first builders, Homes by Towne and Pulte Group, have begun site work.
“We’re hoping to start on models in the late spring,” said Kohn Bennett, Florida division president for Homes by Towne. “It’s exciting.”
Homes by Towne has not announced prices yet for its future Lakehouse Cove community, but Bennett expects models to open in the fall. Homes by Towne is working on designs for the future community’s amenity center as well.
Pulte spokeswoman Sarah Garlick said model home construction and pre-sales are expected to start in April for the 246-unit Shoreview at Waterside community. Home prices will start in the $500,000s. A grand opening likely will be held in the fall.
“It’s a really great area,” Garlick said. “The Waterside project has been highly anticipated for such a long time. We’re anticipating a lot of demand in there.”
Jensen said Davis Development, the developer of The Venue apartments across from Lakewood Ranch Main Street, also is slated to start work on about 300 apartment units. The project will be located at Waterside’s western boundary, adjacent to Interstate 75 and just north of the Sarasota County water tower.
The new year also will be critical in the development of Waterside’s future town center, called Waterside Place. SMR will develop that project itself, with the entire year devoted to finalizing plans and completing engineering for the project.
SMR Vice President of Planning Richard Bedford is working out details of Waterside Place, but said it will include about 200 apartment units in more than 20 buildings. About half those buildings will have retail on the ground level.
“This will be more than enough to establish a nice downtown, where you want to go,” Bedford said.
As he pulled out renderings and maps of the project, he noted every roadway is designed to capitalize on the town center’s view of a mile long, 250-acre lake and keep drivers-by hungry to see more.
There will be a permanent spot for a farmers market, a culinary incubator building that can house up to 24 startup restaurants and bakeries, a boat dock, outparcels for waterfront restaurants, a public park, dog park and other features.
The Waterside Place project will take about two years to fully build out, but once construction starts, it won’t stop until everything is completed.
SMR will own and manage Waterside Place.
“We can’t take the risk of having anybody else do this,” Bedford said. “This town center is the golf course for Waterside. It’s where the social environment is. This is a downtown urban core.”
The Players Centre for Performing Arts, currently undergoing a capital campaign, plans to construct a new facility in the town center (see Page 6).
Its plans feature a 480-seat main stage auditorium with balcony seating, a 125-seat black-box theater, a 100-seat cabaret theater with dining, and the main campus of The Arnold Simonsen Players Studio, the education arm of the organization.