With Schroeder-Manatee Ranch and Sarasota County working through the final approvals, the workforce housing aspect of Waterside at Lakewood Ranch is about to unfold.
One of the main housing projects, called Southshore, will include various town homes, villas and multifamily units built along the shores of three Waterside lakes. One of those lakes is Kingfisher Lake, which hosts the Waterside Place entertainment hub along one of its banks.
Although the setting would seem to make sense for million-dollar homes, SMR Senior Vice President Laura Cole said the idea always has been to create a vibrant community to support Waterside Place and to provide housing for employees of Lakewood Ranch businesses. Multifamily housing will provide more people.
The entire Waterside at Lakewood Ranch project is planned to have 5,144 residential units and 390,000 square feet of commercial, office and retail space on 5,490 acres. Approvals in May 2014 from Sarasota County came with a requirement to have 40% of the residential development as community/affordable housing and to extend both Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Lorraine Road south to Fruitville Road.
Both the Lorraine Road and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard projects are complete, and Waterside Place is scheduled to open in April 2021. Now the focus turns to the Sarasota County Affordable Housing Policy. Sarasota County specified in its agreement that at least 2,037 homes in Waterside had to be affordable to buyers whose income was 80% to 120% of area median income. The median income for 2019 in Sarasota County is $76,700.
Of the 1,985 units approved to date for Waterside, all have been market rate. The Southshore community will have 870 homes or more that meet the workforce housing agreement with Sarasota County. These homes will start at $186,000. The Southshore community will have market rate homes as well. The total number of homes for the community has yet to be determined.
SMR broke ground on the Waterside community April 12, 2016. Homes by Towne and Pulte Homes were charged with building the first two communities of 775 homes.
Rex Jensen, president and CEO of SMR, went back to those builders to create affordable and workforce housing among the homes in Southshore.
Those builders have committed $30 million to the Southshore project within 15 months of the approval of the program if Sarasota County comes to an agreement with SMR about income qualification to buy those homes that meet the Sarasota County Affordable Housing Policy. SMR contends production and sales velocity are the keys to addressing housing affordability. SMR would like to mandate the delivery of more than 2,000 units that meet the Sarasota County Affordable Housing Policy price points, but income qualification remains the biggest hurdle.
For example, if a buyer earns too much money and falls outside of the income qualifications, he or she would be unable to purchase the home. Jensen would like to provide the price point homes and then allow market demand to take over. With a bigger pool of possible buyers, the builders can produce substantially more homes, which allows them to lower overall construction costs and helps to achieve the desired price point.
“Our goal is to get a bunch of inventory done at once,” Jensen said. “We seriously want a big supply. This is the price. Let’s sell it for this price.”
“That is the beauty of Lakewood Ranch and the home style offerings provided,” Homes by Towne Florida Division President Kohn Bennett said. “With price points from the $200,000s to several million dollars, Lakewood Ranch truly has something for everyone. The challenge to deliver the product in the $200,000 to $400,000 range is striking that careful balance of price and the best materials, craftsmanship, design and, of course, location in Lakewood Ranch. To do so also requires the design of product type to include cottages, town homes, paired villas and smaller single-family detached homes.”
Bennett said all the homes in the project will be certified as Florida Green Building Coalition homes.
The homes on Kingfisher Lake will have access to water taxis that will take residents to Waterside Place, and all homes will have walking trails that will lead to the communities’ various amenities.
“The difference in this project is clearly the proximity to the lifestyle components that become the game changer for this village,” Bennett said. “Expansive lakefront views from the trail’s entrance, the walkability to Waterside Place, and the experience of taking a water taxi there makes such a unique setting. Waterside Place sets an amazing backdrop.”
Jensen said the plan always has been to help provide Lakewood Ranch businesses with workers who live in the area.
“Drive up by I-75 and University in the morning, and what do you see?” he said. “A whole lot of people coming to Lakewood Ranch. Drive there in the evening, and what do you see? You see the same folks leaving. Who are they? They are people who work here.
“We’ve got 16,000 on-site jobs. That’s a ready-made penetrable market right here, and we would like to pursue that. We’re trying to embrace the obligation as opposed to trying to avoid it.”