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Big plans emerge for Lakewood Ranch

March 29, 2017

 

Possible new high school, additional developments, even water taxis unveiled by SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen.

 

by: Jay Heater

Managing Editor

yourobserver.com

 

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch CEO and President Rex Jensen is giving Lakewood Ranch residents hope a new high school might eventually come to the area.

 

In 2016, the Manatee County School District announced its plans to build a new high school in Parrish. That was disheartening to some residents who send their children to overcrowded schools in Lakewood Ranch.

 

Jensen was speaking to a packed house of 370 people at the Polo Grill and Bar during the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance luncheon. He said Schroder Manatee Ranch was trying to work out a land swap with the school district that could lead to a new high school adjacent to the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch.

 

He said a site for a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school also was in the works.

 

Jensen revealed several exciting projects for Lakewood Ranch's future at the luncheon, which was sold out.

 

Among other projects, Jensen said he has contracts with residential builders to develop four parcels of land in the Northeast quadrant of Lakewood Ranch, east of Lorraine Road. He said a fifth contract is being negotiated. He said those deals leave much of the Lakewood Ranch property "spoken for."

 

The parcels are likely to be developed over a 10- to 15-year time period.

 

He said Schroeder-Manatee Ranch will construct 28 miles of roads in the Lakewood Ranch area in the next four years — 9 miles in Sarasota County and 19 miles in Manatee County.

 

The topic switched to the new Waterside at Lakewood Ranch development in Sarasota County.

 

He said the Lorraine Road extension to Fruitville Road should be completed by July or August. The Lakewood Ranch Boulevard extension will not be finished by that time. While Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Sarasota County and the five property owners involved with the expansion to Fruitville Road have come to agreement on a land deal to allow the project to go through, a few issues remain with the Florida Department of Transportation and will be discussed next week in Bartow.

 

Jensen said the "flyover" or bridge over Interstate 75 that will connect Waterside to Cattleman Road to the west is 60% planned. Schroeder-Manatee Ranch has contracts for 800 lots in Waterside along with contracts with two companies that will build apartment complexes.

 

Model homes will begin opening in Waterside from June through September.

 

Jensen said a groundbreaking for Waterside Place (the hub of the Waterside community similar to Lakewood Ranch Main Street) should occur early next year. He also revealed that an 8-acre island park will be one of the four main focal points of Waterside Place, which is located on a 36-acre peninsula. The others are The Players Centre for the Performing Arts, a Farmers Market section and the waterfront.

 

He said the John M. Olson Nature Center will be built at Waterside Place.

 

One highlight of Waterside could be a planned water taxi service. The challenge at this point is figuring out a way such taxis could possibly get from lake to lake.

 

In 2016, 778 homes were sold in Lakewood Ranch, making it the fourth fastest-selling, master-planned community in the United States.

 

Jensen noted Lakewood Ranch has increased the Manatee County tax roles by almost $4 billion dollars since 1995. "And we've paid more impact taxes than anyone," he said.

 

That being said, Jensen said he was proud Schroeder-Manatee Ranch paid for its own infrastructure in Lakewood Ranch. He said how annoyed he gets when residents outside of the Lakewood Ranch area complain to the county that they want the same kind of sidewalks they have in Lakewood Ranch.

 

"Well, dig into your pocket like we did and pay for it," Jensen said.

 

Jensen thanked Country Administrator Ed Hunseker for his forward thinking in working with Schroeder-Manatee Ranch but he said some relationships with the county have been rocky. As an example, he talked about being forced to donate land for a library, and the property, just north of State Road 70 on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, remains empty years later.

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