When completed, Waterside Place will offer upscale shopping and dining.

Lakewood Ranch, the enormously successful master-planned community, is having a growth spurt. Mid-sized gated communities are springing up to the north. Some of them don’t seem to be attached to the ranch, but are rather in near proximity, like moons. They are nice but hardly noteworthy. There is a glorious exception just to the south, though: Waterside.

It’s the first Lakewood Ranch community to be built in Sarasota County, and it’s like a breath of fresh air. Here, finally, is something the Ranch previously lacked much of—water. The community, or rather 12 small adjacent communities, is being built on the shores of seven large lakes. The largest is a mile long. These are not the little ponds we’re used to. Some are 35 feet deep.

Lakefront living at Shoreview’s model.

There are 20 miles of shoreline and plans for more than 5,000 homes. They’re also creating a commercial village, something else LWR hasn’t had much luck with. But this one sounds like somewhere people really might go. It’s on a peninsula in the lake and will have fine dining and, hopefully, high-end retail. There will also be 800 apartments and a few condos. The architecture is an interesting surprise; it’s in the style of the Dutch West Indies. Water taxis will ferry people to the 12 Waterside communities, which I’m hoping the public will be able to ride free of charge.

And if that isn’t enough, this is where The Players Theatre is moving. Their new theater will be so big it’s called an “art centre.” They’ll have other shows and concerts when the Players aren’t performing. If this is a success it will have a huge impact on life in Sarasota, breaking the tyranny of having to go downtown for art. Will other arts groups follow suit? “They’re already calling,” says Monaca Onstad, the Ranch’s energetic director of community relations.

Many models are decorated in the coastal style.

Two communities are currently building, with LakeHouse Cove as the slightly more upscale. Homes here start just under $450,000. For this you get 2,135 square feet with two bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. But keep in mind that builders advertise prices that are more theoretical than real. There are “lot premiums” to add on, and I doubt that anyone ever bought one of these homes without a certain number of upgrades.

Many of the homes are much larger and more elaborate, like the Laguna by Arthur Rutenberg, which starts at $1,722,255. Here there is every imaginable bell and whistle in the 4,316-square-foot interior, and the exterior of choice is British West Indies. If there’s a problem with the homes at LakeHouse Cove, it’s the size of the lots and the way the homes stand right next to each other. As one woman said to the salesman: “I just wish there was a little less house and a little more yard.”

Check Out

The new Players Centre for Performing Arts opening: Fall 2020 (naming opportunities available!)

cost: $30 million

size: 70,000 square feet (488-seat main theater, 125-seat black box, 100-seat cabaret)

Quick Facts

Lakewood Ranch population: 34,000

No. of households in Lakewood Ranch: 13,818

No. of new homes permitted: 35,000

Median household income in 2017: $119,000

Average home price through November 2019: $485,000

Top sale in 2018: $2.6 million in The Lake Club

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