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Side of Ranch

Lakewood Ranch turns 30 and still is growing

SMR Senior Vice President Laura Cole talks about Lakewood Ranch's accomplishments over 30 years as the LWRBA's featuring speaker May 22.
SMR Senior Vice President Laura Cole talks about Lakewood Ranch's accomplishments over 30 years as the LWRBA's featuring speaker May 22.
Photo by Jay Heater
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But wait, there's more.

Yes, Lakewood Ranch continues to grow, although most of its growth has come on the 48 square miles the Uihlein family, the owners of the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company at the time, purchased in 1922.

But, as Lakewood Ranch celebrates its 30th anniversary year, the most important question shouldn't be about how big it is, but rather, how do the oldest sections of Lakewood Ranch look?

In my mind, that is the mark of a great developer.

We all know that new neighborhoods, and buildings, look ... well ... new.

But can you tell the old neighborhoods from the new ones?

I know this might get you going if those big oak trees in front of your home were removed, or if you have some increased pond algae, or if your aren't happy with those potholes on your roads.

But, be honest, when you drive into your neighborhood, do you find yourself saying, "I live in a beautiful place."

I think you do.

Sure, there are more cars on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, but I still can look to the right or the left and get a feeling of peace and calm when I see the lakes (retention ponds) and landscaping.

"I live in a beautiful place."

Twice in my earlier years, I moved out of a California home because my neighborhood was deteriorating. In both instances, I was living in a neighborhood that was about 30 years old. It can happen in that amount of time if a developer doesn't put the proper measures in place to ensure beauty, no matter whether it has any ownership responsibilities or not, to care for the land.

I know those CDD and Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District fees can be annoying, but that's the case with taxes. They were formed to uphold the integrity of the neighborhoods into the future, and to make sure that your property values will remain strong if you ever do decide to sell.

Any new neighborhoods that exist on formerly SMR-managed land, must join the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District, which was formed in 2005 by the state legislature as 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 includes 25,000 acres of land both in Manatee County and Sarasota County.

Lakewood Ranch's developer, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, always understood from the first house that if the area continued to shine overall, it would enhance the area's reputation and attract more potential homeowners.

The last six years, Lakewood Ranch has been the No. 1-ranked multi-generational, master-planned community in the U.S. as determined by the RCLCO real estate consulting firm.

Case closed.

Gee, what a concept. So simple, but so rare. Build it, maintain it, and they will come.

On May 22, the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance celebrated Lakewood Ranch's 30th anniversary year at its luncheon at the Lakewood Ranch Country Club. SMR Senior Vice President Laura Cole gave a presentation to the alliance about Lakewood Ranch's accomplishments over the decades.

There were so many, Cole sounded like an auctioneer at times, as she only had about 40 minutes at the podium.

When all was said and done, LWRBA President and CEO, Brittany Lamont asked Cole if Lakewood Ranch would ever be incorporated into a city.

Cole asked why anyone would want that to happen since the services a city could offer are in place now.

So here are a few of the eye-opening statistics Cole shared with the LWRBA.

* Those living in the Sarasota/Bradenton area are the biggest buyers of homes in Lakewood Ranch. The perception that Lakewood Ranch is too far out in the sticks is long gone. That group is followed by No. 2 New York, No. 3 Tampa, No. 4 Chicago and No. 5 Miami.

* The $501,000 to $700,000 price tag made up 34% of the home sales last year in Lakewood Ranch. Only 1% of the sales went for $300,000 or less and 12% of the home sales were for $1 million or more.

* The average median income for homeowners in Lakewood Ranch in 2023 was $162,000.

* That average median income was 1.6 times higher than for the Sarasota/Bradenton metropolitan statistical area.

* Lakewood Ranch in 2023 hosted 6 million square feet of commercial that included 2,120 businesses and 18,246 employees.

* Lakewood Ranch has eight public and charter schools (a mix of elementary, middle and high schools), six private schools, 13 preschools and 10 colleges and universities.

* Those wanting to buy in Lakewood Ranch can choose from 30,000 households that are available for sale or rent.

* The estimated population in Lakewood Ranch in 2023 was 70,000. In comparison, Bradenton's populated, as listed by World Population Review in 2024, is 58,110.

* The median age of those living in Lakewood Ranch is 53.

* Of those adults living in Lakewood Ranch, 75% are college educated.

* Lakewood Ranch now has 95 residential neighborhoods.

* Forty percent of Lakewood Ranch is dedicated to open space.

* Lakewood Ranch has 150 miles of multi-use trails.

Familiarity often breeds contempt, but, hopefully, we can celebrate Lakewood Ranch's successes over 30 years. You will have several opportunities, including at the monthly block party and live music series, Music on Main. Each one will have a theme connected to Lakewood Ranch's 30 years. The June 7 theme is Supporting Arts and Culture.

So whatever our annoyances with Lakewood Ranch, perhaps we can take a breath and say, "Happy 30th."


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