LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Work has started on what will become the heart of the 2,000-acre Waterside community being developed by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch in Sarasota County.
Friday, a floating dredge was cleaning out clogs of cattails from a 6,200-foot-long lake, the largest of seven lakes on the Waterside property. The lakes were excavated during decades of shell and sand mining by SMR.
A planned town center of shops, restaurants and apartments will look out onto the largest lake.
SMR awarded a 90-day contract in January to Florida Dredge and Dock of Tarpon Springs to remove the cattails and dredge down to a depth of eight feet, said project manager Roger Aman.
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"Cattails won't grow below eight feet so we won't have so much maintenance to do in the future," Aman said.
Lake C, as it is now called, averages about 20 feet in depth, and cattails typically can't grow in depths beyond six feet, he said.
Even though an official groundbreaking has not yet been held for Waterside, activity is ramping up.
Bids were opened this week for extending Lorraine Road to Fruitville Road in Sarasota County.
The Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District is set to award the Lorraine Road project at its meeting Feb. 19.
Bid openings for extending Deer Drive to Lakewood Ranch Boulevard are set for Feb. 18, followed by the opening of bids for extending Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to Fruitville Road in the first week of March.
All of the roads to be extended will be four lanes.
"We are off and running," Aman said.
Pulte Homes will start doing earth work on its Waterside property during the Deer Drive project. Also scheduled to build in Waterside is Homes by Towne.
At buildout in about 20 years, Waterside is expected to have 5,144 residential units and 400,000 square feet of commercial and residential development.
Waterside, better known by its original name, the Villages of Lakewood Ranch South, will be located south of the Sarasota Polo Club, Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park and The Lake Club.
Waterside will have 12 neighborhoods and 2,037 workforce housing units distributed throughout the new community, Richard Bedford, SMR vice president of planning, has previously said.
The Stewardship District, created by an act of the Florida legislature in 2005, has the power to issue bonds to fund construction infrastructure for SMR's remaining 23,000 acres in Manatee and Sarasota County.
The district recently issued a $79.5 million bond issue to pay for roads and utilities in Waterside.
SMR's Sarasota holdings also include the 2,000-acre Heritage Ranch conservation easement immediately east of Waterside, and the 3,000-acre SMR Myakka to the east of Heritage Ranch.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter@jajones1.