Lakewood Ranch leaders weigh purchase of info center from SMR

jbartolone@bradenton.comFebruary 19, 2014 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- District supervisors are tossing around the idea of purchasing the Summerfield Information Center -- if developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch is willing to sell it, that is.

The idea popped up at a recent Community Development District 1 meeting, and Town Hall Executive Director Eva Rey said Tuesday that SMR CEO Rex Jensen is "open to" a potential purchase.

The 3,964-square-foot center was built in 1995 to serve as a real estate sales office for prospective Lakewood Ranch residents. It also includes office space for SMR-operated Lakewood Ranch Community Activities.

With Summerfield Village, the master-planned community's first neighborhood, and others around it having long been sold out, the building may have outgrown some of its use, although visitors still show up seeking tours of Lakewood Ranch.

"The Summerfield Information Center will continue to operate as such until (when and if) there is decision to open an information center north of State Road 70," SMR spokeswoman Lisa Barnott wrote in an email. "At some point, when we are finished with it, logically we would talk to the IDA about their interest in the building."

Jensen could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

SMR operates other information centers at 6220 University Parkway and 8307 Lake Club Blvd., plus an information kiosk at the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce office on Fruitville Road.

Some District 1 leaders said the building, at 6310 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., adjacent to Summerfield Community Park, would make sense as a district-owned community center.

"I think it would be a great place to have a teen activity center building there," said vice chairman Alan Roth.

"How about a senior center?" asked assistant secretary Phyllis Troy, noting "all the activities" Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton. "I think that would be a better option."

Rey also suggested the possibility of the district entering into a partnership with another community organization, such as the Boys & Girls Club, that could operate the facility.

Supervisors stressed a potential purchase of the information center is still in an exploratory phase.

The property was appraised at $437,547 in 2013, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser website.

Chairwoman June Stroup said it's important the district consider its options in having some control over what replaces the information center.

"If we don't, we could get surprised," Stroup said. "I would hate to see a three-story building."

But SMR officials said that's not likely.

"Non-residential buildings are limited to 35 feet in height within the existing zoning approval for the property," said Todd Pokrywa, SMR's vice president of planning.

Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.

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