LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Catholic diocese is making a big investment in land in Lakewood Ranch to make room for a future church and school.
On Aug. 27, the Diocese of Venice purchased 63 acres of grazing land at the northeast corner of the Lorraine Road and The Masters Avenue for $3.47 million, according to county records. The acreage is a portion of a 116-acre parcel owned by seller Schroeder Manatee Ranch.
Under terms laid out in the deed of sale, the diocese is allowed to use the land as the site of a church building and a school. Associated uses can include athletic fields, parish and school offices and nonprofit housing for the elderly.
The land is adjacent to Robert Willis Elementary School and directly south of the gated, private community Country Club East. County records show that the diocese already owns about 20 acres south of its new property, just across The Masters Avenue It purchased 4 acres of that land for $20,600 from SMR in 2004.
In a press release from the diocese, spokesman Ben Nguyen states the property will allow the Catholic community in Lakewood Ranch to "address real pastoral needs in establishing a future parish." The Catholic church nearest to the land is
Our Lady of the Angels on State Road 70.
Nguyen gave no specifics about a future church building in the release. He did say the Catholic population is growing in the Manatee-Sarasota area.
The price the diocese paid for its new land breaks down to about $55,000 per acre, below the recent going rate for land in Lakewood Ranch. Developer and builder Neal Communities paid SMR about $74,000 per acre on a 111-acre purchase just north of the Central Park development in late August. Also in August, both Neal and Cardel Homes bought 12 total home sites in the Country Club East development for an average of about $173,000 each.
Nearly a dozen churches are inside or on the borders of Lakewood Ranch, with the vast majority along State Route 70 and University Parkway, or just south of the parkway.
Two churches, Harvest United Methodist Church and Cornerstone Church of Lakewood Ranch, are along Lorraine Road, just south of the new diocese property.
SMR, the master developer of Lakewood Ranch, will continue to exercise a degree of control over the property.
In the deed, SMR reserves the right for 50 years to have final sign-off on the locations of any buildings, entrances, roads and parking lots on the property. It will also have final approval on signs, landscaping and architectural and design plans. The deed further restricts the use of the property in stating no athletic fields may be located on the northern half of the property.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.