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No longer on ice in Lakewood Ranch

After years of uncertainty, former hockey arena site headed for development.

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  • | 9:50 a.m. May 20, 2020
DVA Arena originally envisioned a hockey arena, construction of which began in 2005, on the site. It was demolished in 2009 by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch and now is vacant land. File photo.
DVA Arena originally envisioned a hockey arena, construction of which began in 2005, on the site. It was demolished in 2009 by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch and now is vacant land. File photo.
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More than a decade ago, Lakewood Ranch officials welcomed a dream.

DVA Arena in 2003 envisioned constructing a 220,000-square-foot, 7,400-seat sports and entertainment arena in the heart of Lakewood Ranch. It would be a venue for the future Gulf Coast Swords hockey team, part of the East Coast Hockey League, as well as being able to host concerts, festivals and other major events.

After years of financial uncertainty and other challenges, the property went into foreclosure, and Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch purchased the land back at a foreclosure sale in April 2009.

It has remained undeveloped since.

SMR now is asking Manatee County to add the nearly 70-acre site into its Lakewood Centre Development of Regional Impact, a land approval that spans two sections of Lakewood Ranch between state roads 64 and 70 and Lakewood Ranch and White Eagle boulevards. The property sits just west of White Eagle Boulevard on the north side of Rangeland Parkway, formerly called Center Ice Parkway.

“This piece we’re adding is the old hockey arena site,” said Caleb Grimes, a land-use attorney and a representative for SMR, at the Manatee County Planning Commission hearing May 14. “There was actually a stipulation in the DRI that if SMR acquires the property, the land needs to be added to the DRI. No new

entitlements are being requested.”

The site, combined with six adjacent parcels, would be assigned up to 200,000 square feet of office space, 236,000 square feet of retail space and 200 multifamily dwelling units previously assigned to other parcels within the DRI.

SMR also was seeking to relocate already-approved land uses on other parcels within the DRI, which is allowed per its original development approval.

Among them is the addition of 380,000 square feet of retail and 541 multifamily units to the northeast corner of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and 44th Avenue East, west of Woodfern Trail. The site is west of B.D. Gullett Elementary School and Mona Jain Middle School.

A parcel immediately east of the schools, at the northwest corner of 44th Avenue East and White Eagle Boulevard, was originally a park site, but in 2019 it was modified for up to 425 multifamily units. SMR seeks to shift 341 of those units to the property west of the schools.

Some residents of neighboring communities, particularly Harmony at Lakewood Ranch and Mallory Park, said they do not believe multifamily housing, particularly rental apartments, is appropriate with the surrounding schools. They said they were concerned about the safety of children walking to school and traffic congestion, as well as the impact to their property values and the amount of development happening around them.

“I don’t want more residences close to the school,” Central Park’s Stacy Chen said. “Traffic is already a problem. I’m worried it’s going to get worse if they build more houses.”

Mallory Park’s Elan Feder said it’s not “just reallocating” but also the location of where the multifamily homes will be placed.

“There are a number of problems that are not solved,” he said.

Grimes said multifamily housing, including rentals, has always been part of the plan with more than 4,000 residential units approved in 2008. Of those, three-fourths were multifamily housing.

“This Lakewood Centre has been designed to provide all types of residential units since day one,” Grimes said. “No new units are being requested. We are shifting some around.”

Manatee County commissioners are set to vote on SMR’s proposed changes at their June 4 land-use hearing.