SARASOTA -- Whenever the long-planned Villages of Lakewood Ranch South project eventually gets off the ground in Sarasota County, it could have neighbors.
Canadian developers are seeking to build a village of their own, dubbed the Lindvest Fruitville project, at Fruitville Road and Dog Kennel Road in eastern Sarasota. The development would be situated just south of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc.'s Villages, which are slated to include more than 5,000 homes on about 5,500 acres south of University Parkway and east of Interstate 75.
The Lindvest Fruitville project is much smaller, with plans calling for 900 units on about 450 acres. If approved, it could pop up as early as 2014.
Its developer, Toronto-based Lindvest, is seeking a rezone from Sarasota County for its project to be considered a "village," according to Sarasota 2050, a 50-year plan aimed at shaping future growth and development in the county.
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Villages such as the ones proposed by SMR are defined under Sarasota 2050 as a collection of neighborhoods designed so most of the housing units are within walking distance of a "neighborhood center," such as a park, church, school or community center. Villages should include mixed-use "village centers" that will serve the daily and weekly retail and service needs of residents, and they should be surrounded by large expanses of open space, according to Sarasota 2050's tenets.
Villages are also required to be a minimum of 2,000 acres under Sarasota 2050, but Lindvest is seeking a comprehensive plan amendment that would allow for their smaller project, said Allen Parsons, a planner with Sarasota County.
Officials at Kimley-Horn and Associates, the firm handling the planning and engineering for the Lindvest project, say the amendment is similar to one granted for Neal Communities' Grand Palm development in Venice, the only project that has so far come to fruition un
der Sarasota 2050. Grand Palm, which opened in late 2011, was also engineered by Kimley-Horn.
Lindvest Fruitville's developers say their project encourages smart growth because it is adjacent to the county's major employment center on Sarasota Center Boulevard and is in proximity to existing roads and services, allowing people to live near where they work and shop. Their project "provides new housing options for this part of the county" and includes a minimum of 33 percent open space, according to its pre-application to the county.
"It will be consistent with many of the building blocks of 2050, including interconnectivity, lots of trails and open space, all those sorts of things, all those building blocks of 2050 that as a planner make a lot of sense," said Bill Waddill, senior vice president at Kimley-Horn.
Officials at Lindvest could not be reached for comment.
Lindvest has a neighborhood meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tatum Ridge Baptist Church, 7817 Kennedy Lane, to gather feedback from residents, followed by a pre-application meeting with planners Thursday morning to hear their feedback, before the developer submits its final application.
If approved, the developers hope to begin construction in early 2014, Waddill, said. The final build-out of the project would be in 2024.
Parent company Lindvest Properties Ltd. specializes in master-planned communities in Canada. It purchased the Fruitville property in 2008 for about $20.6 million from G & T Land Development LLC, according to property records.
Part of the property had once been owned by Neil Mohammad Husani, who was accused of buying and "flipping" properties in Manatee and Sarasota counties and using the inflated properties to defraud several banks out of $83 million in loans. Husani was wanted by the FBI and fled the country in 2006.
Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @Jason Bartolone.