As the growth of Lakewood Ranch forges into the 2020s, developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch (SMR) is facing a new challenge.
A lack of space.
It's hard to believe since Lakewood Ranch is approximately 50 square miles, or twice the size of Manhattan.
But with more than 10,000 new homes scheduled to be completed in the coming decade, the developable land is being gobbled up. With a current population of approximately 38,000, those new homes are expected to swell the population to 64,000 or more.
The challenge might be more pronounced in the commercial realty sector.
"The issue we are facing is having less commercial dirt," said Kirk Boylston, the president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial. "We are trying to reserve land in each area to serve the residents."
Boylston does expect the population of Lakewood Ranch to double in the next 10 years.
"It should unless we have some big downturn," he said.
No matter what, Boylston will have his hands full. By the end of the decade, the CORE (Collaboration, Opportunities, Research, Exploration) project is expected to be filled with medical researchers, Waterside at Lakewood Ranch should be built out along with its entertainment hub, Waterside Place, and the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park will include a large entertainment district along Interstate 75.
Boylston said commercial developers tend to buy properties in areas that are populated to the point of supporting the planned use.
"Developers here are buying things that typically are green (not ready to be supported by the population), because they need to buy ahead of time," Boylston said. "They need to do that, because if they wait, the land will be gone."
In terms of the major projects, Boylston said CORE's development will be stimulated by the presence of the Brain Health Initiative, which is now operating on site. The Brain Health Initiative is operating an office where the former Lakewood Center Information Center was located on Rangeland Parkway and will be working with SMR to build a facility within CORE as soon as possible.
"The driver of CORE will be the Brain Health Initiative," Boylston said. "It adds another layer."
Of the 265 acres planned to contain CORE, about 50 acres have been developed. Boylston said SMR will begin building more roads within CORE starting into 2020 to handle the expected growth.
At the Corporate Park, Boylston said the main catalyst for growth will be the entertainment area, which was made possible by zoning changes approved by Sarasota County. He said the makeup of the district has yet to be decided but it is likely to include arcades, a bowling center, a movie theater, or an adventure park, or a mixture of any of those.
Boylston said the Waterside Place should be open for business by the first quarter of 2021 and should become a major entertainment hub for the entire region with waterside dining, shopping and the $30 million Players Centre for Performing Arts complex.
"We are close to finalizing two free-standing restaurants," he said of Waterside Place. "We are being extremely selective. We've filled in the service retailers we want. We working on boutiques, apparel, florists. We are not looking for national chains."
Waterside Place will have four or five free-standing restaurants at the lake's edge with water views.
Among other things that will be seen in Lakewood Ranch in the next decade will be more apartment complexes. Five years ago Lakewood Ranch had three apartment complexes and is up to seven now. Boylston said he could see that number doubling.
He said another hospital isn't likely to be built in the area, but many more health services offices will be serving the public.