Lakewood Ranch runs short of property in Manatee, enters partnership for more land

Rex Jensen presents State of the Ranch report

Rex Jensen, CEO and president of developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, presented his State of the Ranch report to the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance Wednesday, March 20.
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Rex Jensen, CEO and president of developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, presented his State of the Ranch report to the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance Wednesday, March 20.

It had been two years since Rex Jensen had presented his state of Lakewood Ranch address, and since then many things have changed at the fastest-selling multi-generational community in the United States.

For one, developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch is running out of territory in the Manatee County portion of the 50-square-mile master-planned community.

Only about 1,200 acres of uncommitted land remained, increasingly putting the squeeze on the company’s farm operations.

Wednesday, Jensen, president and CEO of SMR, announced to the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance that his company had entered into a partnership with the Taylor family for four square miles of property south of State Road 64 along Bournside Road.

After Jensen’s presentation in the Grove Ballroom, Jay Taylor called the partnership SMR’s “relief valve,” and noted that the company has already moved sod, citrus, and cattle operations there.

Even though land might be getting scarce at Lakewood Ranch, Jensen declined to forecast when development might be completed.

Now in its 25th year, Lakewood Ranch has 21 residential villages, 12 business centers, 14,731 homes, and a population of 35,547, Jensen said.

One of its major thrusts now is developing the Waterside community on its Sarasota property, which will eventually include a second Main Street, called Waterside Place, and about 5,000 homes.

Site development is underway at Waterside Place, and SMR expects to begin going vertical there with Dutch-West Indies-inspired architecture in July or August, starting a 24-month construction cycle.

SMR is preparing to go before the Sarasota County Commission with its plans for affordable housing in Waterside. Approximately 2,000 of the 5,000 proposed residences would be designed as affordable housing, he said.

Lakewood Ranch is home to about 16,000 jobs, and Jensen would like to see more of those workers able to live where they are employed.

“You should stand out and look at the interchange at 5 p.m. to see the exodus,” Jensen said of the workers who travel off Lakewood Ranch to go home.

When Lakewood Ranch was launched 25 years ago, the first homes built were in the Summerfield and Riverwalk villages, and were designed as affordable housing for young families. They sold for between $89,000 and $129,000, Jensen said.

Jensen asked for the Alliance’s help in support of its affordable housing goals before the Sarasota County Commission.

Jensen also asked for Alliance members for their financial support of The Brain Health Initiative at Lakewood Ranch, which was announced recently with the participation of Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, and The Academy for Brain Health and Performance.

The program has a $1.6 million community fundraising campaign to support the next two phases of this initiative. SMR has announced a contribution of $600,000 to the fund.

The initiative promises to pay dividends to the Bradenton-Sarasota community for many years to come, Jensen said, comparing it to the Framingham Heart Study, which was launched in 1948.

For more information about the brain initiative, visit

C. John A. Clarke, Jensen’s predecessor as CEO and president of Lakewood Ranch, attended Wednesday’s program, and said he was happy to see that the balance of live, work, and play has been maintained over the years, and the community continues to provide ample green space.

At the start of the Wednesday’s program. Heather Williams, chair of the Alliance, announced that Jensen, Lou Marinaccio, and David Fink had been named emeritus board members in recognition of their service.