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Side of Ranch

Toll Brothers joins Lakewood Ranch to market new Monterey village

Lakewood Ranch continues to expand its holdings as builders want to capitalize on the brand.

Monterey at Lakewood Ranch has two models available, including the Centennial.
Monterey at Lakewood Ranch has two models available, including the Centennial.
Photo by Jay Heater
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It looks like Lakewood Ranch, and even smells like Lakewood Ranch with all that fresh air and mowed grass.

So it must be Lakewood Ranch.

Unless it isn't.

That was the dilemma facing Toll Brothers after it bought a strip of property along Fruitville Road, east of its intersection with Lorraine Road.

Toll Brothers had great success with The Isles on University Parkway in Lakewood Ranch. The executives immediately saw the power of being in Lakewood Ranch in terms of drawing power.

That No.1-selling, multigenerational, master-planned community in the U.S. label is worth its weight in gold. Those executives already found it to be true at The Isles.

The problem was that this planned community, now called Monterey at Lakewood Ranch, wasn't really in Lakewood Ranch, at least not part of what Schroeder-Manatee Ranch calls its 31,000-acre Lakewood Ranch.

How do you get around it?

Toll Brothers paid for the right to be "annexed" by Lakewood Ranch, as much as you can be annexed by an unincorporated area. Then again, when a community puts in three decades of work to build its reputation, it should have the right to protect its name.

Rex Jensen, SMR's CEO and president, explained it all well in a 2019 interview. Jensen said that Lakewood Ranch's success is tied to being not just neighborhoods filled with houses.

“When you buy a home here, you’re not just buying a house," Jensen told Mark Gordon of the Business Observer. "You’re buying into a very active, engaging lifestyle.

"Some real estate developments are “projects,” not “communities,” he said. “They don’t have schools. They don’t have churches. They don’t have parks inside them. They don’t have employment opportunities. To me, that’s the difference between a square and cube.” 

So I am not sure whether Jensen was saying a cube is better than a square, but whatever the geometry, Toll Brothers said, "Sign me up."

When Toll Brothers sent out its announcement that sales had begun in Monterey on March 6, it also included prompts to connect with Lakewood Ranch's information center and the Lakewood Ranch app.

Those in Monterey at Lakewood Ranch will be part of the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District, a special purpose form of local government. The district issues bonds to fund the construction and/or acquisition of stormwater management improvements, landscaping, utilities improvements, and roadway improvements. The District annually collects from property owners both a bond debt service assessment and an (operations and maintenance) assessment. The bond debt service assessment helps amortize the district’s bonds.

"We are excited to continue our partnership with Lakewood Ranch with the opening of Monterey at Lakewood Ranch," said Brian O'Hara, the Toll Brothers Division president in Tampa and Sarasota, in an email. "This is our newest Toll Brothers community in the highly desirable master-planned community. Monterey at Lakewood Ranch will anchor the southeast corner of Lakewood Ranch Southeast with direct access to Fruitville Road and the upcoming Bourneside Road extension."

The pool area of the Centennial model at Monterey at Lakewood Ranch, which just opened sales.
Image courtesy of Diana Todorova Photography

Jose Molina, the marketing director of Toll Brothers Tampa Division, said Monterey at Lakewood Ranch will consist of 113 single family homes, priced from the mid $700,000s to more than $1 million.

It will be a gated community with homes from 2,517 square feet to 4,987 square feet and more. The amenities will include walking trails, fitness center, resort pool, a dog park, an event lawn, pickleball courts, an amenities center (construction will begin fall 2025), and everything else you would expect in a Lakewood Ranch community.

Two models are now available on-site.

Molina said he would expect residents to begin moving into the village in January.

In promoting its new community, Toll Brothers notes that Monterey at Lakewood Ranch is "located just minutes from Waterside Place, downtown Sarasota and Siesta Key. 

It's all interesting because in the 10 years I have lived in East County, Lakewood Ranch has come so far. Although Jensen and his staff were building communities, I do believe the perception for years was that Lakewood Ranch was a bedroom community, or a nice place for seniors to spend their golden days. That has changed.

Even in Toll Brothers first words "located just minutes from Waterside Place, downtown Sarasota ..." is a prime example of how things have changed. In the past, Sarasota always would have received top billing from a developer trying to attract buyers. No more.

Waterside Place has become such a destination, that it gets top billing.

Don't think other builders aren't trying to capitalize on the power of "Lakewood Ranch," perhaps without paying SMR any royalties.

The Kolter Group is building the Alton Lakewood apartments on State Road 64, just to the east of Lorraine Road. Included in a promotional package about the project's groundbreaking was this paragraph.

"Located within Bradenton’s Lakewood Ranch community, Alton Lakewood will provide proximity to top destinations in Bradenton such as the Legacy Golf Club of Lakewood Ranch, Bob Gardner Park and Trails and the White Eagle Shopping Center. The surrounding area of Alton Lakewood is zoned for the top-rated schools, creating a destination for families seeking premier education offerings in addition to thoughtfully designed homes."

Certainly, anyone trying to rent or sell homes in the vicinity of Lakewood Ranch wants to capitalize on the LWR brand. It can be a risky venture as Lakewood Ranch has sued in the past to protect its brand.

As Pat Neal, by paying SMR for his Windward community off Fruitville Road and Lorraine Road, and Toll Brothers, with Monterey at Lakewood Ranch, have decided, hitching their wagons to the "Lakewood Ranch" brand has paid off.

Which gets me to wondering, just how far will I have to drive in 10 years to get to the Lakewood Ranch border?



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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