Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Marking Milestones

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Marking Milestones

Article excerpt

LAKEWOOD RANCH

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- For the next two Friday nights, thousands of people will celebrate milestones in a community that was built from scratch, transforming a working ranch into a place that 25,000 people call home.

Twenty years ago, landowner Schroeder-Manatee Ranch turned dirt for the first

houses in the Summerfield neighborhood of its new master-planned community called Lakewood Ranch. Ten years ago, the first shops opened on Main Street, and a handful of business people joined forces to ensure the rest of Manatee and Sarasota counties knew about their fledgling enterprises.

On Friday, Main Street, Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and Lakewood Ranch Community Activities are collaborating for the first time to host a 10th anniversary party. Next week, a party at Premier Sports Campus pays tribute to the community's 20th anniversary.

Today, there are about 9,500 houses in Lakewood Ranch. At buildout in about 20 years, that number is expected to be 32,000. As rooftops popped up and businesses relocated to provide goods and services, the region took notice of the opportunities.

"This is a market where you want your business to be known, where there is incredible demand for the resources we are sitting on top of," said Heather Kasten, executive director of the business alliance, which has 525 members.

The affluence in Lakewood Ranch is the "real deal," she said, with a foundation of full-time residents and families with disposable income. The goal of her organization is to be the conduit for businesses to connect with each other, and, more importantly, to connect them with residents.

"We're riding a wave right now," Kasten said. "I recognize that's what it is. There is so much excitement. …

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