LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Big is back.
Lennar Corp. conducted a ground-breaking ceremony Wednesday for its new Bridgewater at Lakewood Ranch community featuring its "everything included" homes.
They range in size from 2,394 to 3,800 square feet for its "estate homes" and 2,245 square feet and 3,828 square feet for "manor homes."
It's a sure sign the Suncoast has stepped back into a housing recovery.
Matt Devereaux, director of sales and marketing for Lennar Homes, said that the company has been eager to build in Lakewood Ranch. "So when the opportunity came up that we could be a builder here, we wanted to jump on that opportunity," he said.
State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, was on hand Wednesday morning to help celebrate Lennar's project and the general upturn in the real estate market.
Galvano said he believes the project will attract people to the community, confirming Florida's reputation for the top destination spot in the world. He also pledged to keep "red tape" from slowing construction of the new community, which is expected to be built out in four to five years.
"I'm excited to see this community grow," Galvano said. "We are at a turning point in the state of Florida and within our community with regard to the economy. The ground-breaking on further development, like where we are at today, corroborates that we are strengthening and that the economy is getting better."
The new Lakewood Ranch development is sure to attract the kind of people Florida wants, Galvano said.
"The people that will occupy these homes are going to be employers, employees. They're going to be consumers. They're going to be your friends and your neighbors, and I think that is extremely, extremely important," Galvano said.
Increasing numbers of interested home buyers are critical to the economy, Galvano said, and Lakewood Ranch is in many ways becoming the residential heart of the Tampa Bay area.
With more than 18 months of growth in the real estate industry in terms of sales and prices, Devereaux has a positive attitude about the housing market.
"I think that every builder would tell you that things are improving," Devereaux said. "We all hope that the market will continue to perform and continue to get healthy day after day, but right now we feel that prices will continue to go up slowly and that coupled with good interest rates -- and the prices are still pretty low -- is really the perfect storm to buy a new home."
Bridgewater estate homes range in price from the high $300,000s to the high $400,000s. Manor homes range in price from the high $200,000s to high $300,000s. Prices depend on the details and amenities buyers want in their houses. Prices also could rise as demand rises.
"We come in with a certain price point because we want to spark sales, and we want to get the engine going, but we'll continue to increase our prices as the sales pace increases," Devereaux said. "And I think every builder is doing that in the market right now."
Marketing manager for Lennar, Zach Bouchard, believes the new community will attract lifestyle-driven homeowners.
Lennar plans to build about 280 new homes at Bridgewater.
Devereaux said the builder isn't too concerned about the tight labor market right now.
"We have a lot of other master-planned communities in Sarasota and Manatee counties," Devereaux said. "We've been in Sarasota for a long time, so we do have a good subcontractor base. And while the labor force is continuing to replenish, we continue to look for new subcontractors and make sure we're delivering a quality product."