Lakewood Ranch draws in the big builders


Lakewood Ranch has long nurtured local builders, with such companies as Lee Wetherington Homes, Todd Johnston Homes, Anchor Builders and John Cannon Homes enhancing their reputations, and market shares, there over the past decade and a half.

But the landscape is changing. The big boys have moved in. With a groundbreaking last week by Lennar at the 292-home Bridgewater community, Lakewood Ranch now has three of the top 14 national home builders by closings, according to Builder Magazine.

The others: No. 14 Taylor Morrison, going all-out with Esplanade Golf & Country Club and Haddington in Country Club East, and No. 1 D.R. Horton, building on a limited basis in Greenbrook Village.

These builders offer a diverse product line to buyers.

The amenities center at Esplanade Golf and Country Club in Lakewood Ranch. The builder, Taylor Morrison, is one of two big national homebuilding firms with a major presence there. (Staff photo by Harold Bubil)

The amenities center at Esplanade Golf and Country Club in Lakewood Ranch. The builder, Taylor Morrison, is one of two big national homebuilding firms with a major presence there. (Staff photo by Harold Bubil)

Lennar, No. 3 nationally, will build “Manor” homes from $299,990 and 2,245 square feet with four bedrooms; a “NextGen” model, for families with multiple generations under one roof, from $399,990 for 3,828 square feet with five bedrooms with a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment with kitchen for grandmother; and Estate homes from $369,990 for 2,394 square feet, and other Estate homes up to 3,800 square feet.

Similar houses are being built by Lennar in Heritage Harbour to the north of Lakewood Ranch. “But they have to bring them up to our design guidelines,” said Jimmy Stewart, vice president of sales for the 8,800-acre community, “which means additional architectural detail, higher ceilings — a little more gingerbread, so to speak.”

“Lakewood Ranch is a place that we wanted to be for a long time,” said Matt Devereaux, Lennar’s vice president of sales for Southwest Florida. “It is not just a place to sleep and shower. It is a lifestyle — schools, shopping, restaurants, entertainment. When we had the opportunity to be in Lakewood Ranch, we wanted to jump all over it. We hope this is just one of many opportunities we’ll have here.”

Lakewood Ranch’s roster of builders includes Anchor Builders, Cardel Homes, Homes by Towne, John Neal Homes, Lennar, No. 64 Neal Communities, Nutter Custom Construction, Todd Johnston Homes, Arthur Rutenberg/Nelson Homes, John Cannon Homes, Lee Wetherington Homes, London Bay Homes, Neal Signature Homes, Taylor Morrison and Westwater Construction, and D.R Horton in a limited capacity. Horton is building about a dozen houses on foreclosed lots it bought from banks in Greenbrook Village.

Smaller builders at Lakewood Ranch are selling at price points above Lennar’s. Builder T.J. Nutter appreciates that Lennar’s national marketing reach will bring more attention to the Ranch. And some of that attention may shift to him.

“They have a following nationally. I can see a benefit to that, riding on their coattails,” said Nutter, owner of Nutter Custom Construction. “But I don’t build Lennar’s product. I don’t see them as competition at all.”

Lennar and Taylor Morrison “give us a variation and diversity of product offering,” said Stewart.

“We are able to cover all niches and pricing bands, with Central Park, Esplanade, Bridgewater, and then Belle Isle, Country Club and The Lake Club,” said Stewart. Lakewood Ranch offers homes from $200,000 to $1.4 million “and everything in between,” he added.

Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Lakewood Ranch’s parent, said the addition of big national builders to his lineup is “a function of the market. These are the strong guys in today’s world.

“And it’s also the fact that Lakewood Ranch has gained some credibility and some critical mass that makes companies like that very interested,” Jensen added. “We are a proven product. They as companies want to be part of it and we are happy to have them.”

Jensen said his roster of big builders may grow in the near future as he attempts to move Lakewood Ranch up from its long-held No. 9 ranking among the best-selling communities in America.

“We seem to be wed to that number, so we will see if we can rise above it,” Jensen said.

Mike Storey, a Neal Communities executive, doesn’t see Lennar as competing for Neal buyers, but welcomes the big boys. “When national builders are willing to reinvest in the market, it shows confidence in the overall marketplace.”

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: August 1, 2013
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