As much as area residents dislike news of more homes coming to the area, they hunger for additional restaurant choices.
Or perhaps they are just hungry.
CASTO's Michael Chadwick, the managing director of Southeast Development, fed members of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance with some interesting news May 19.
The alliance hosts tours of regional businesses as part of its "Road Show," which is held once or twice a year, and this particular version was packed with information.
The second stop on the three-stop tour was at CASTO's Center Point development, and Chadwick was entertaining as he talked about his company's many projects in the Lakewood Ranch area that will include new restaurant and supermarket choices.
He said Lakewood Ranch area residents will be happy to see the long-awaited opening of Owens Fish Camp at Center Point. He said the restaurant, which has its original site in Sarasota, should be open to the public in "a couple of weeks" with a soft opening perhaps as early as this week. Owen's Fish Camp co-owner Mark Caragiulo told the East County Observer in January he hoped to be open in March, but supply shortage problems delayed the process and Caragiulo said the ownership wasn't about to rush the opening and sacrifice quality.
The restaurant originally was expected to open in September.
Chadwick said after Owens Fish Camp opens, 7-Eleven and Fifth Third Bank will open in quick succession at Center Point. The LWRBA was meeting at TD Bank, which is under construction.
Chadwick said many of the businesses that have signed leases at Center Point are ramping up construction and he expects more openings late this year or early in 2024.
Among the restaurants are Ruth's Chris Steak House and Bar Italia, which replaced Olivia's Italian restaurant, which pulled out. Another restaurant that has pulled out is Lake Park Diner, that had planned its third location in Lakewood Ranch.
Chamberlin's Natural Foods grocery store also is on the way at Center Point but isn't expected to open until 2024.
Although nothing has been signed yet and he didn't want to share names of businesses or details, Chadwick said CASTO currently is in negotiations with a "fun" pickleball center that would be kind of a "drop-in-and-play-a-fun-match" place where people also could enjoy a beer — as opposed to a club that attracts more serious players. CASTO also is negotiations with bowling centers with the possibility of bringing one to Lakewood Ranch.
Just north of State Road 70 and west of White Eagle Boulevard will be a new shopping center and a sit-down restaurant on Crossland Trail. Chadwick said those businesses have not made public announcements yet, so he didn't want name them.
However, Outback Steakhouse and Aldi's grocery store both are in the Manatee County permitting process for those sites.
"The grocery store will give an alternative for (grocery shoppers) to Publix and the Fresh Market that will replace Winn Dixie (at the Green)," Chadwick said.
Aldi's has opened stores on University Parkway and S.R. 64 in the past year to increase its presence in the Lakewood Ranch area.
At State Road 70 and Lorraine Road, Chadwick said CASTO has purchased the corner property that currently hosts Nancy's Bar-BQ and Dunkin' and he said people can expect some sprucing up and improvements in that center.
North to State Road 64, CASTO has several projects in the works.
Chadwick said those waiting for the announced Popeyes restaurant at the corner of State Road 64 and 117th Street East can stop worrying. The restaurant was announced for the site in June 2021 but has been working its way through permitting. Chadwick said the fast-food chain restaurant is ready to begin construction now.
A Hungry Howie's was announced at the same time as Popeye's for the site, but Chadwick said CASTO is no longer working with Hungry Howie's. That site has other open businesses, including ABC Fine Wine and Spirits and Christian Brothers Automotive.
CASTO also has projects underway or proposed for the intersections of S.R. 64 with Pope Road, White Eagle Boulevard and Lorraine Road.
Fast food restaurants including Del Taco and Wendy's are on the way, along with businesses Mavis and Woody's car wash.
However, bigger news is expected at the intersection of Lorraine Road and S.R. 64 if zoning changes are made to allow business. Chadwick said if those changes are made, it is likely his business will pursue a couple of sit-down restaurants for that intersection.
The entire length of S.R. 64 from Interstate 75 through Lorraine Road has gone under a tremendous transformation the past five years, all due to the growth of homes. As we know, business follows retail, and this is no different.
CASTO showed its development savvy by buying up whatever it could along the stretch of road, and while residents on the north border of Lakewood Ranch might have been worried it would just be fast food restaurants, car washes and storage facilities, indications are that those who lives in places such as Mill Creek or Heritage Harbour or River Strand won't have to drive to Main Street at Lakewood Ranch, University Parkway or Waterside Place to find a nice restaurant.
The LWRBA tour began at Sarasota County Fire Station 8, 840 Apex Road, Sarasota. Willis Smith Construction provided lunch to the tour group, which was treated to a comprehensive tour of the fire station.
After stopping at Center Point, the group moved to PopStroke at UTC to hear about the Mote Science Education Aquarium project, which is expected to open late in 2024.