Landscaping ideas come to fruition at Waterside Place, which will begin to open in the coming months.
Jason Rinard, a principal of civil engineer Kempton Rinard of Tampa, walked through Waterside Place as workers put the final landscaping touches on the entertainment hub.
He was asked what made the Waterside Place landscaping project different than the many others completed by his company.
"Maybe the scale of it," Rinard said as a smile spread across his face. "This had it all, a lot of different concepts, water, an 8-acre park, smaller parks, streetscapes."
With Willis Smith Construction having finished building construction in May, Kempton Rinard's landscaping design is the final piece of the Waterside Place puzzle. Rinard estimated the landscaping would be finished in July.
Business owners are working on the buildout of their respective spaces and Monaca Onstad, the director of community relations for Lakewood Ranch Communities, said the Market at Lakewood Ranch, currently being held each Sunday in the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center parking lot, is being targeted for a move to Waterside Place in August, when the first tenant opening is expected.
Onstad stressed that there is no concrete date for the move yet with "so many factors still in play."
However, in the past month, the outdoor aesthetics of Waterside have taken shape.
The journey for Kempton Rinard began late in 2018. Schroeder-Manatee Ranch broke ground on the project Oct. 4, 2018, but planning for the project had been ongoing.
"There already was a lot of history when we jumped in," said Rinard, who said his company hadn't worked with SMR before. "But everyone was coming together to make it happen. Everyone has been a team player, and the client (SMR) was not afraid to spend money."
Rinard said it made it an easy transition for his company into the project because he already had relationship with SMR Project Director Roger Aman, who had worked with Kempton Rinard when he was director of planning for WCI Communities.
At the entrance to Waterside Place, Rinard looked to his right at Gateway Park, a circular amphitheater that originally was planned to be a playground. It was the kind of give-and-take Rinard said his company experienced after they joined the team. He thought the entry point would be better served with a park that could host small events or just as a sitting area to enjoy the lake view.
"You try to be respectful to the ideas that come to the table," he said. "And we collectively worked it out as a team. Gateway Park became a unique identifier, with seats and walls."
Rinard said SMR was OK with scrapping a plan if another one was better.
Just down the street from Gateway Park is what Rinard said was being called Second Park. It morphed into an area with artificial turf that can host various games such as cornhole. It will have overhead festival lighting for some extra atmosphere.
As the main thoroughfare reaches the lake and curves to the left, Merchants Park sits with its open-air pavilion lounge seating. It will host live bands and other events and is likely to be one of the most photographed spots in Waterside Place.
In all, Waterside has five smaller parks and the 8-acre park that Rinard calls a "monster."
"There is a lot of flex space," he said. "That was the guiding factor."
Kempton Rinard also designed the extra wide sidewalks to accommodate tables and umbrellas if businesses wanted to have an outside presence. The trees were lined with cathedral oaks, palms and other plants because, of course, "shade is a big deal."
"We wanted to create pockets (between buildings), where you could see the water," he said. "You could do a yoga workout, or have a cup of coffee, and be accessible to the water. We wanted a comfortable pedestrian thoroughfare and SMR wanted to create program elements that would keep people here for a while. Or when you are waiting for a restaurant, you can take a stroll in a park."
The splash pad being built on the island park will be in sight of restaurant and pub seating across the bridge so parents can keep eyes on children. A set of bicycle racks were constructed at the entryway to Waterside Place, next to public restrooms. The stainless steel wire fence all along the lake allows a view of the lake whether or not a person is seated. Fountains that rise in the lake will have its stream of water lit at night. LED multi-colored lighting around Waterside Place will add to the atmosphere.
Kempton Rinard had the idea for the marina and a floating dock that will launch kayaks and water taxis.
"We learn in every project," Kinard said. "This was a great experience across the board.
"But our best reward will be seeing people interact here."