Rex Jensen presents State of the Ranch report
Vast acreage that until recently was the heart of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch’s tidy farm operation south of State Road 64 and east of Lorraine Road has been replaced by a massive construction zone.
The developer calls the area the Northeast Quadrant. In the future, instead of a sod farm, tree operation and citrus groves, the property will be home to neighborhoods such as Azario by Taylor Morrison, Cresswind by Kolter and Solara by DR Horton, representing more than 3,000 homes.
Two other large parcels, one to the east of Premier Sports Campus and west of Lakewood National Golf and Country Club, and the other to the north of the sports complex are under contract to other unnamed home builders.
The Northeast Quadrant also includes property for a future kindergarten-through-eighth grade school.
The SMR Farms building is still located on Lorraine Road, but green fields behind the building have been replaced by upturned earth, while just to the south another segment of the 44th Avenue extension is under construction.
Further south, Rangeland Parkway is also being extended. Both will dead end on Bournside Boulevard.
Not that any of this is a surprise. In March, Rex Jensen, CEO and president of SMR, told the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance that the company is running out of land that can be developed.
That was news, and so was the fact that SMR had entered into a partnership with the Taylor family for 4 square miles of property south of State Road 64 along Bournside Road. SMR has already moved its sod, citrus and cattle operations there.
Taylor Morrison recently announced its plans for its Azario Lakewood Ranch community, which will offer two neighborhoods — Esplanade at Azario Lakewood Ranch, a resort lifestyle and golf neighborhood; and Park East at Azario, a single-family home neighborhood with dedicated planned amenities.
Esplanade at Azario residents will have access to a planned private 18-hole golf course and resort amenities that include a wellness center, culinary center, resort-style pool, Bahama bar, sports courts, fitness center, fire pits, and a full-time lifestyle manager to plan special events, according to a Taylor Morrison press release.
Planned for Azario are 1,750 residences on approximately 991 acres. The first models should open in early 2020.
The DR Horton and Kolter communities are each projected to have more than 600 residences.
“Due to the strong economy, development in the Northeast Quadrant came quicker than we anticipated. Over the past 12 months alone, Lakewood Ranch has been averaging 122 sales per month, which makes it the second-fastest selling community in the nation,” senior vice president for LWR Communities Laura Cole said in an email.
“Given where we are in Florida along with our mix of home product and high absorption levels, builders who have been successful here and are near buildout (such as Taylor Morrison with Esplanade) or new ones that have identified a broader opportunity in a specific niche (Kolter’s active adult Cresswind Village), want to continue to grow with us.
“As the market cycle grows longer, there is a natural ‘flight to quality’ that occurs in any given market. Lakewood Ranch is viewed as a secure position due to the community’s performance and continued investment by owners.”
At 50 square miles, Lakewood Ranch is now home to 21 residential villages, 12 business centers, 14,731 homes and a population of 35,547, Jensen said in March.
In its 25th year, Lakewood Ranch has until recently been unrivaled by any other area in Manatee County for home-building activity.
As of March, there were 23,918 homes approved or pending approvals for the Parrish-North River area, 20,963 for the area south of the Manatee River and generally east of U.S 301, and 1,965 for southwest Manatee, west of U.S. 301, according to John Osborne, deputy county administrator.
Osborne’s figures don’t include more than 5,000 homes that SMR has approvals for in its new Waterside community, south of University Parkway in Sarasota County.
“For right now, we are focused on the Northeast Quadrant and Waterside,” Cole said. “There is enough there to keep us busy and we feel we are introducing homes and neighborhoods that are in alignment with where the market is today.”
A recent Wall Street Journal article mentioned Lakewood Ranch as among the communities that millennials are flocking to after being priced out of housing in bigger cities.
“They mention Lakewood Ranch, which is nice because, as you know, we’ve been focused on appealing to this demographic through our marketing, new neighborhoods, amenities (Waterside Place is very much on point here), and lifestyle programming. We see both millennials and boomers continuing to drive a great deal of the growth in Lakewood Ranch for the coming decade,” Cole said.