LAKEWOOD RANCH -- With new home sales booming in his Central Park neighborhood, builder Pat Neal is looking at future commercial development in the area.
Cattle now grazes on a 17.8-acre site at the corner of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and 44th Avenue East, where a sign advertises "Central Park Station" and lists Neal's phone number for more information.
The property is zoned and approved for mixed use, Neal said, meaning it could one day be home to a shopping center anchored by a grocery store or gym, or some combination of apartments and offices.
That day might not be too far off, as an influx of new homeowners within just a few miles has already prompted plenty of phone inquiries to Neal.
"I could plan all the small shops I need to, but what I really need is a grocery store," Neal said.
With a Publix Super Market already located less than 2 miles north on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and another less than 2 miles south, a grocery could be at least a few years off. Neal said he will likely start actively marketing the property in 2015.
In the meantime, the area north of State Road 70 between Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Pope Road is quickly filling with new residents:
Sales at Central Park have been "enormously successful," Neal said, with all 626 homes sold and on track to sell the remaining 200 lots by the end of 2014, if not sooner. The sales rate has ranged between 14 and 26 homes per month this year, Neal said.
The nearby Esplanade, a Taylor Morrison Home Builders project that opened in January 2011 north ofState Road 70 near PopeRoad, began with 400homes and is now adding 800 more units and a golf course.
Builder Lennar's Bridgewater development, which broke ground along Pope Road in July, is adding 281 new homes beginning around $300,000.
And plans are under-way for the 256-unit Creekside Apartments complex, which will be on Lake-wood Ranch Boulevard just south of the 272-unit Lost Creek Apartments built in 2011.
With all those new families moving in, plus the plans for 44th Avenue East to eventually turn into a major east-west connector that links with Cortez Road in Bradenton, the possibilities for Neal's Central ParkStation corner property and other commercial development are growing.
Intercoastal Medical Group is already building a 25,400-square-foot, two-story medical office building at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Rangeland Parkway and consolidating its operations there.
"I certainly think with the housing rooftops being constructed in Central Park and then the neighboring growth of the Esplanade project by Taylor Morrison and the Bridgewater project all within close proximity to that Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and 44th Avenue area, I think there's future opportunity for future retail," said Brian Kennelly, president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty. "I think the timing and the tenants are the open issue."
That isn't stopping Neal from looking at his development options.
"Pat Neal is looking for land everywhere," Neal said.
"You can print that."
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.