LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Shawn Lacina just closed on her new home on Whisper Lake Drive in Eagle Trace this month, and she's already feeling blessed to be a part of this community, quietly situated off State Road 64 East next to sprawling Lakewood Ranch.
"This is the best kept secret, and I have the best of both worlds," Lacina said on a busy morning while unpacking her family's belongings in a new single-family, 2,416-square-foot home that will also be home to teenagers Emily and Ben and a shy but loving bichon frise named Jake.
Lacina and her family lived in Lakewood Ranch for 13 years and enjoyed all it had to offer. But a better deal, in her estimation, is Eagle Trace, a new, gated development built by Neal Communities, a family owned and operated company based in Lakewood Ranch.
Eagle Trace, which opened last year, is Neal's newest development, offering large and airy single-family homes with flowing kitchen, living and dining room areas that overlook lanais, several bedrooms and bathrooms, dens, generous closet space, two- and three-car garages and attached villa homes. Prices start at around $198,000 for a villa and the low $200,000s for a home. There are over a half-dozen models to choose from, including more than 3,000 square feet for a four-bedroom home and more than 2,000 for a villa. Neal homes boast luxury exterior architectural and interior features like classic colonial molding, as well as energy-saving insulation and heating/cooling systems.
When completed, the community will have 272 homes on 104 acres of property, with over 5 acres preserved for natural habitat.
"We opened in December, and we have 38 homes and villas sold already, so that's a good amount," said lead sales associate Valerie Fedi Blomquist, who meets with interested homebuyers daily in an office housed on the premises,
With routine lawn and landscape maintenance included in monthly community fees, Eagle Trace offers residents access to several on-site amenities that some neighborhoods in Lakewood Ranch don't have. The center of the community has a recreation center with a pool and spa, gas grills, tennis courts, playground, and two fully-fenced dog parks for large and small dogs.
"This is a win-win for me, and I'm thrilled to pieces what I get for my quarterly fees. I don't have to pay any Community Development District, and most communities don't have a pool, a tennis court or lawn care. This is meant to be dollar for dollar," said Lacina, who downsized from her home in Lakewood Ranch but is very satisfied with the amount of space she has, considering there are two teenagers with her.
"Anything we found needed to be done is done. That's all you can ask for. That's what counts," added resident John Romeo, who was the first to move to Eagle Trace in April with Pam O'Brien. Both Romeo and O'Brien say they're impressed by the site supervision and how responsive the builder is to putting the finishing touches on their new villa.
The community is also a stone's throw away from Lakewood Ranch Main Street shopping and entertainment, Lakewood Ranch public and private schools, golf courses, the Gulf beaches and the cultural enclave of Sarasota.
"The location of Eagle Trace is ideal for people looking to be close to everything," said Michael Storey, Neal Communities' building division president. "Being near Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and State Road 64, home buyers will have access to several community amenities," Storey said.
While just beginning to evolve, with tree-lined streets, small ponds and benches to stop and ponder the moment while on a quiet walk, Eagle Trace is forming a personality of its own, thanks to neighbors like Romeo and O'Brien. O'Brien, originally from Sarasota, returned to Florida after living in Virginia so she could be closer to two of her sons.
"We moved in April and everyone is friendly. We're all new, so people are reaching out and making an efort to get to know their new neighbors," O'Brien said. "This community just embraced us when we came in. It made us feel very good."
"I love having a mix of ages in this community," said Lacina, referring to the empty-nesters who have downsized, families like hers with children and active adults who have moved into Eagle Trace. "Meeting my 80-year-old neighbor who just moved in this past weekend and seeing how vibrant and happy he is to be here made me feel really good. I'm thrilled to be a part of it."
Information about Eagle Trace is available at nealcommunities.com.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.