LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Plans are under way to build a new information center in Lakewood Centre, the master-planned community's next major growth area north of State Road 70, where hundreds of single and multifamily residences, offices, retail centers and a planned 300-room hotel are slated for development.
Final site plans for Lakewood Ranch North Information Center have been submitted to Manatee County Building and Development Services from developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc., owners of the 6.6-acre property zoned for mixed use along the southeastern portion of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and Rangeland Parkway opposite the Intercoastal Medical Group.
Plans call for constructing a mid-size, 2,160-square-foot building with parking to replace the Summerfield Information Center on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, which SMR owns and was the site of the original Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
Planned as a smaller version of SMR's University Parkway Information Center, the North Information Center will house a community ambassador and liaison now based in Summerfield.
Permit and environmental
approvals are pending within the next 90 days from Manatee County, the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency assisting in mitigating a degraded wetlands area on the property, which was once used for agriculture and will be filled before construction can begin.
Project engineer Robert Lombardo of Lombardo, Foley & Kolarik of Palmetto, who engineered many major Lakewood Ranch projects, including the University Parkway Information Center, Town Center and Lakewood Ranch Hospital, said construction could begin as early as March and take less than a year to complete.
"All our permits are intact and there's nothing out of the ordinary in regard to that wetlands area. Rangeland Parkway is a major road so there's no need to build any additional roads," Lombardo said Wednesday.
He said no changes would be made to the stormwater retention pond next to the Lakewood Ranch North Information Center site, which will serve the new building and the entire stretch of Rangeland Parkway.
The future is unclear for the Summerfield Information Center owned by SMR. Canadian developer Mattamy Homes, building 675 single family residences in a project called Harmony at Lakewood Ranch, in Lakewood Centre below Central Park, now leases space in the Summerfield Information Center. The developer plans to move representatives to the sales center on site of the new community, according to a Summerfield tenant.
Another Summerfield tenant, Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, a not-for-profit independent organization in charge of activities for the Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority and the Stewardship, might move as well, but it's not a problem for Director Lori Basilone.
"I'm not concerned if we end up in an office nearby," Basilone said. "I feel confident it will work out and we'll be in a central location for the community so we can continue to become stronger and more unified."
Summerfield District leaders have said they would like to keep the information center next to Summerfield Community Park intact, rather than having it sold to a commercial entity. Having sentimental value as the original Town Hall for Lakewood Ranch, district officials expressed interest in having the community purchase the center to use as club space, a youth center, an art center or substation for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office to patrol the county roads in Lakewood Ranch.
Chairwoman June Stroop said an investigatory committee was formed in November to save the center.
"All the other community development districts have appointed someone to this committee and I urge anyone else in the community that is interested to attend our meetings," Stroop said.
The first committee meeting will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.