MANATEE -- Two of Manatee County's largest developers came together Monday to talk about how their projects are going to affect the county's future -- one in West Bradenton, the other in Lakewood Ranch.
Both developments have the power to reshape Manatee County's retail and residential scenes as well as its infrastructure.
Their presentations during a luncheon at Holiday Inn SRQ came just as Manatee County finished nearly half of the 44th Avenue East extension. That road will eventually connect the massive developments outlined by Richard Bedford, vice president of planning for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, and Whiting Preston, president of Manatee Fruit Co.
Bedford pointed to 44th Avenue East as the key.
"When we get that done, we'll be connected to Whiting's world," Bedford said.
He also discussed infrastructure changes brought about through SMR's development plans.
"You've heard about this 64 and Lorraine Road roundabout," Bedford said. "It's right there at Rye Road, and I don't want to speak for FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation), but it's pretty sure it's going to happen." He also said another roundabout could be built elsewhere on Lorraine Road but that the Rye Road roundabout will come first.
Preston focused on what he considers to be the biggest issue facing his planned development Lake Flores in West Bradenton -- traffic.
Lake Flores, a 1,300-acre mixed-use walkable community, was approved by the Manatee County Commission last August. Development plans include 6,500 residential units, 1 million square feet of retail space, 2 million square feet of commercial space and 500 hotel rooms.
"Lake Flores is about an urban plan conceived behind various plans and principals that mitigate traffic trips," Preston said. One of the principals includes the use of "complete streets." Complete streets create a safe street environment for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit riders.
"It creates other opportunities for people that live within the community to travel in the community without getting in car," Preston said.
He stressed the need for "vitality" in West Bradenton, which is a part of the county's Southwest County Improvement District.
"It's an area that really needed some new investment," Preston said. He also discussed addressing Lake Flores neighbors' concerns with developing the infill area.
"I was glad to hear Whiting expand on concerns about infill development," Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac said. "He's right; Lake Flores has come into an area that has been developed for a long time, so I'm glad to hear he is sensitive to neighborhood issues."
Benac also commended Lakewood Ranch for its development process.
"It's great they can use bonds through their community development district to finance infrastructure and install it before development happens," Benac said. "I hope to see the same thing with Lake Flores."
Since the Lakewood Ranch project began in 1995, 9,500 homes were built in the subdivision, according to Bedford. The subdivision has approval for a total 28,000 homes.
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.