Lakewood Ranch already is enormous. And it’s about to get even bigger

First neighbors move into sprawling Waterside development in Lakewood Ranch

New Lakewood Ranch community will eventually have more than 5,100 homes.
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New Lakewood Ranch community will eventually have more than 5,100 homes.

The spigot has been opened on Lakewood Ranch’s massive new Waterside development.

Right now it is a drip. Only about a half-dozen families have moved in and call Waterside home.

In the future it will be a flood. More than 5,100 residential units are planned for Waterside.

It took developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch a quarter century to complete its visioning, planning and permitting before deciding the timing was right for a groundbreaking in April 2016.

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Richard Bedford, vice president of planning for developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, looks at a schematic on the site where Waterside Place, the community’s town center, will be located. James A. Jones Jr.

Ever since, there has been a flurry of activity as SMR extended and four-laned Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Deer Drive and Lorraine Road through the 1,425-acre site south of University Parkway and north of Fruitville Road in Sarasota County.

SMR also built parks and sidewalks, and added landscaping before the first resident moved in, said Richard Bedford, SMR’s vice president of planning.

“SMR puts the infrastructure in first. Everything gets done ahead of the rooftops,” Bedford said.

SMR puts the infrastructure in first. Everything gets done ahead of the rooftops.

Richard Bedford, vice president of planning, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch

The first two builders in Waterside are Pulte Homes and Homes by Towne. Homes by Towne is building 571 homes in its Lakehouse Cove neighborhood, and Pulte is building 275 in Shoreview.

In addition, Davis Development is building 300 units of apartments at Waterside, just north of the last uncompleted section of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard connecting it to Fruitville Road.

Davis also built the Venue at Lakewood Ranch apartments, and will be building apartments in Waterside Place, the planned town center of Waterside.

Site work on Waterside Place, with its Dutch-West Indies inspired architecture — think Aruba and Curacao — is expected to begin in the second half of 2018, and then begin going vertical in early 2019, Bedford said.

Waterside Place will front onto a 6,200-foot lake, the largest of seven lakes at Waterside, and will be home to restaurants, shopping and entertainment, including The Players Centre for Performing Arts.

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A sandhill crane family takes a stroll down Lakewood Ranch Boulevard at Perimeter Road, where there is more wildlife than people. That is beginning to change in Lakewood Ranch’s Waterside community. James A. Jones Jr.

An eight-acre island connected to Waterside Place will provide additional recreational opportunities and relaxation for residents and visitors. The town center will be served by electric boats.

“Waterside is very unique. If you look at overall Lakewood Ranch, we started out with 30,000 acres. Most of it is open area. Big pieces, thousands of acres of citrus, sod and cattle. Waterside is completely different. It’s about a net of 2,000 acres,” Bedford said.

“It has large lakes with very narrow strips of land in between these large lakes. So, as opposed to the north side in Manatee County where we have these big, wide-open areas, this is very tight and compact, and a lot of it fronts on significant waterfront property.”

Andrew Basco, a Pulte sales consultant at Shoreview, said the company has sold more than 33 home sites.

“I think we’re right on track,” Basco said.

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An artist’s rendering shows the concept for Waterside Place, the planned town center for Waterside at Lakewood Ranch. provided rendering

Bedford echoed the sentiment during a ride-through, noting the numerous lots sporting sold signs in Shoreview.

Even though Waterside will have several builders working in 12 neighborhoods, the appearance of the community will be seamless.

Other than apartment or condo complexes, nothing will be gated.

“It’s all one,” Bedford said.

James A. Jones Jr.: 941-745-7053, @jajones1