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Award-winning Lakewood Ranch lifestyles director leaves post to open new company

Monaca Onstad leaves Lakewood Ranch community relations post with SMR to open new lifestyles company.

Monaca Onstad finished her run as community relations director for Lakewood Ranch Communities Feb. 25 and will now open her own business.
Monaca Onstad finished her run as community relations director for Lakewood Ranch Communities Feb. 25 and will now open her own business.
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After developing Lakewood Ranch's nationally recognized lifestyle programs since 2016, Monaca Onstad has left her post as community relations direction for Lakewood Ranch Communities to pursue other career goals.

Onstad said the opening of Waterside Place allowed her to consider what's next.

She is opening her own lifestyle company, Onplace, with the hope of designing lifestyle programs for communities all over the U.S.

Among the awards she won for her lifestyle programing in Lakewood Ranch was the 2017 Lifestyle Director of the Year award she received from the National Association of Home Builders and the "Bull by the Horns" award she received from the Lakewood Ranch in 2018. 

Although she is leaving her job, Onstad is not leaving the community.

"Lakewood Ranch is the best community," she said. "Oh, my God, I love Lakewood Ranch. My family is not moving. I still will be the chair of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, and I will continue to be the face of Lakewood Ranch 101 Orientation."

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Vice President Laura Cole said a manager of lifestyle and resident experience will be hired to replace Onstad.

"Since Lakewood Ranch opened, there has a been a heightened focus on creating a unique lifestyle that adapts to the changing needs and preferences of our residents," Cole said. "Lakewood Ranch’s leadership has been steadfast in its commitment to creating great places and activating them with dynamic programming. We find that our best contributions to lifestyle come at the start-up phase, in incubating new programs, such as the market or the Parks and Recreation series, and then transitioning them to Community Activities which under Keith Pandeloglou’s able leadership ensures that these programs live on."

Onstad said research and conversations with people in the industry convinced her that many new communities being built lack a lifestyle director. She want to help create those plans.

She said owning her own company will give her flexibility to "ramp up or down" in order to handle family responsibilities. Onstad and her husband, Eric, have two children, Garrett, 12, and Alexander, 6 months.

Finishing the Waterside Place project signaled a turning point for her.

"Waterside Place was a big check the box for me," she said. "It took a lot of brain power."

She credits her husband, who works for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, for giving her the stability to chase her career dreams.

"My husband is amazing," she said. "When he decided to take this job almost six years ago and move from Virginia, he had a pretty good job with the U.S. Marshals. It was a hard move for us, but he did it. He is so supportive. If I say, 'I want to go to the moon tomorrow,' he would figure out a way."

She said in her line of work, with developments, she always is "working myself out of a job," because those developments eventually finish their work.

"This is bittersweet for me (leaving SMR)," she said. "I love it so much, and I love the community. I had Rex (Jensen) and Laura (Cole), and they just saw the vision of what we were doing and what we tried to create. They gave me the leeway, or the runway, to activate that plan. That collaboration is what I am going to miss the most.

"They trusted me, and in the end, they saw what could happen. I am so very fortunate, and I always was so proud of the company I was working for."


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