The "Coming soon" signs are about to become rare at Waterside Place of Lakewood Ranch.
Since the Lakewood Ranch Medical Group at Waterside Place became the first business to open in the business and entertainment hub in November 2021, the pieces have come together slowly.
But they have come together.
Take, for example, the Mexican-inspired restaurant and tequileria, Agave Bandido, which announced Feb. 17, 2022, that it was going to open in Waterside Place in "late 2022."
Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Senior Vice President Laura Cole said Agave Bandido plans to open in March. SMR owns and operates Waterside Place.
If Cole has been snapping together the final pieces of a Waterside Place jigsaw puzzle, Agave Bandido, which will occupy a 4,000-square-foot space, would be a significant piece. It's an anchor restaurant which offers outdoor seating along Kingfisher Lake.
Cole said Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House will open in April, another key restaurant that will offer lakeside seating.
Post-COVID supply chain issues, along with backed-up contractors and other building industry slowdowns, have delayed Waterside Place from living up to its full potential. Until now.
"Except for one small 1,600-square foot space, everything in Waterside Place is either leased or under letter of intent," Cole said. "Waterside Place is 70% open."
The opening of Agave Bandido and Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House will raise that percentage higher, and another four restaurants are on the way. All are expected to be in place by the end of the year.
One of those restaurants, the Allswell gastropub, located at 102 Island Cove Terrace, will occupy a space just down from the restaurant Forked. Allswell is expected to open in September.
"That's a good corner, and they will serve lunch and dinner," Cole said. "We're excited about having that operator."
The operator is the husband and wife team of Darren Shore and Tory Delany, who have been in the restaurant business for 25 years and who currently own three restaurants (the Malt House in Greenwich Village, the Malt House in the Financial District, and Mezcali in the Financial District) in Manhattan in New York City.
Shore and Delany, who both are from Ireland but met in New York City on St. Patrick's Day in 2007, moved from New York to the Isles at Lakewood Ranch two years ago to get away from "the rat race."
They love the Lakewood Ranch area and they have kept an eye on the development of Waterside Place.
"It has just been a different lifestyle for our family (in the Lakewood Ranch area)," Delany said. "We wanted a different pace of life."
The couple has three children, Benjamin, 11, Harriet, 9, and Ollie, 6.
"This has been the fastest two years ever," Delany said. "We appreciate how absolutely different this area is from New York. We appreciate the weather and the outdoor activities. And we see huge business opportunities, and rapid expansion."
They believe Waterside Place is the perfect place for their gastropub, and they feel fortunate to land in one of the final openings.
She describes a gastropub as an establishment that offers elevated bar fare "in a purposefully casual setting."
Delany, who moved to the U.S. in 1998, said the goal is "to wow you with quality food," such as Duck Shepherd's Pie, short ribs and polenta, short ribs grilled cheese, and a Wagyu-blend burger.
"You will go in thinking that you are going to a bar, but you will be wowed by the food," she said. "We also will be serving mindfully selective beers."
While she said the area doesn't have the intense late night vibe of New York, where there might be 20 other restaurants on the block and you have to keep up with the Jones, she said Allswell will be open to midnight and give those in the area another late-night choice.
"I am a cook, and the food is absolutely important," Delany said. "Our children are interested in what we do, and we talk to them about healthy family, healthy bodies. We talk about the importance of eating."
She said her children always have accompanied her to her job, and at Waterside Place, they will have several entertainment options, such as the splash park, which opened at Waterside Park in January. The park now offers volleyball courts, a huge playground, the splash park, an exercise course, and open fields.
"The water park took longer than we anticipated," Cole said. "But the good news is that with (the opening of the splash pad), we are done."
Shoreview's Mark White was enjoying the playground area last week as he pushed his granddaughter, 4-year-old Amelia James, on the merry-go-round.
"She is visiting from New York," he said. "This playground is beautiful, really great. It took a little longer to get here than we expected, but the outcome is perfect. We are living in nirvana."
Having all the Waterside Place amenities finished is a draw, but Cole said there are other factors that have helped the hub become complete.
"Nicole has driven those partnerships (with artistic groups), and people are responding," Cole said.
The development of the surrounding area also has helped to sell out the spaces in Waterside Place.
"Except for one that's under development, all residential neighborhoods are actively selling," Cole said. "That is helping (Waterside Place to develop)."
The Farmers Market continues to be a success at Waterside Place, drawing between 4,000 to 8,000 visitors every Sunday.
Cole said the emphasis now is to finish the construction of the spaces that have yet to open, and to get those businesses stabilized once they open.
When they are complete, she said SMR will take another look at the lot was originally was supposed to be The Players Center for Performing Arts' theater. That project fell through and Cole said once the rest of Waterside is finished, they will identify "the gaps" before deciding what kind of business will occupy the space.
"It could be entertainment, or civic use, even a hotel," she said.
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.