Lakewood road grows to keep up with boom
County OKs 6 lanes for ranch boulevard
By FRANK GLUCK
MANATEE COUNTY -- "Coming Soon" signs line Lakewood Ranch Boulevard between State Roads 64 and 70, an area poised for a commercial and housing boom in burgeoning Lakewood Ranch.Full build-out is still years away, but Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. -- developers of the expansive Lakewood Ranch community -- are moving forward with designs to widen the roadway to six lanes to handle anticipated traffic.
The four-mile stretch is already home to a number of traffic-generating enterprises, including the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. Gullett Elementary School will open east of the boulevard in August.
The stretch of roadway to be widened is bookended by a growing shopping center on its north end, at S.R. 64, and Lakewood Ranch High School and a planned shopping center to the south, near S.R. 70.This is only the beginning. Developers have big plans for the largely untapped north end of Lakewood Ranch.The largest are two massive developments, together totaling about 8,000 homes, for north of S.R. 70 that SMR will soon pitch to the county.
Neal Communities is planning an 800-unit development at at 44th Avenue East and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. The project includes 150,000 square feet of commercial space.Other proposed projects would offer hundreds more homes."It's going to keep going on and on that way," said County Commissioner Donna Hayes, who represents the area. "We're going to need that six-lane capacity."
Road work will not likely begin for at least several years, said Tim Martin, president of Lakewood Ranch Development.Much will depend on the housing market and, by extension, the growth of commercial development on the north end of Lakewood Ranch, Martin said."We're just trying to be good stewards of the land and get out in front of it," Martin said.SMR won the Manatee County Commission's approval for the concept Tuesday.SMR also wants to eventually six-lane Lakewood Ranch Boulevard south of University Parkway, but Sarasota County officials want SMR to build a "village" there with two-lane streets.