LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The man behind much of the commercial development growth in Lakewood Ranch in recent years is leaving for a new job.
Only, he won't be going far.
Brian Kennelly, president of LWR Commercial Realty, is leaving Schroeder-Manatee Ranch at the end of September following a seven-year career, the company announced Thursday.
Kennelly is returning to The Starling Group, a Sarasota-based developer and builder where he worked previously. This time he'll have an ownership interest in the company.
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"I think the world of SMR and Lakewood Ranch," Kennelly said. "It's such a unique development opportunity."
Starling has worked with SMR on eight projects since the master-planned Lakewood Ranch community was founded, including a $6.5 million, 25,000-square-foot Intercoastal Medical Group building now under construction at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Rangeland Parkway, meaning Kennelly will still be heavily involved in local development.
"Brian isn't leaving SMR as much as he is going to rejoin one of our best customers," said SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen in a statement. "To me, it's just an evolution of a long-standing relationship between three parties who've always worked well together. I'm hoping that we can soon announce the next Starling/Kennelly project on the Ranch."
His current employer said Kennelly "has been instrumental in bringing 4 million square feet of commercial space -- worth more than $1 billion -- to the Ranch, with one of the lowest vacancy rates (8 percent) in the region," according to a press release about his departure.
Kennelly also listed several commercial projects in Lakewood Ranch that have "led the way out of a difficult economy," including IRISS's light manufacturing facility, three apartment complexes (Lost Creek, Venue and Creekside), senior housing at Windsor's Reflections Memory Care and an adjacent planned independent living facility, as well as the growth of Lakewood Ranch's Main Street.
Schroeder-Manatee Ranch spokesperson Lisa Barnott said the company has already begun the search for a replacement.
"He's been a pretty integral part of that operation," Barnott said.
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011, or follow him on Twitter@JasonBartolone.