The Lake Club
by Dr. David F. Parker
The Lake Club in Lakewood Ranch (LWR), the planned community that opened in 1995 adjacent to the Florida cities of Sarasota and Bradenton, has become arguably the most prestigious address in the encompassing two-county metropolitan area. But it wasn’t always thus.
About twelve years ago, the then-president of the 31,000 acre Schroeder-Manatee Ranch (SMR), C. John Clarke, was concerned about the number of homes and the number of golf courses being developed in the rapidly growing Lakewood Ranch planned community being developed on SMR ranchland – two golf courses completed, three more planned, and an additional 18-hole private course on the Ranch’s eastern boundary. Since an estimated fewer than 25 percent of golf course community residents play golf regularly, his concern was based on the financial viability of existing and possible future courses. He asked his advisors to explore the feasibility of developing a prestige community without a golf course.
Originally, 829 acres of relatively featureless land adjoining University Parkway at the eastern boundary of SMR was identified for planning the “Ungolf Community” as it was known before receiving its present name – a continuation of the simple naming scheme for Lakewood Ranch originally inspired in 1994 by the first president of LWR New Communities. Although the total plan area was modified in subsequent years, the original objective of providing a mixture of large lots, enhanced with connected lakes and heavily landscaped parkland, was preserved through the site planning and landscape skills of Canin Associates. Additional value was added with a signature clubhouse of modest size and superior Tuscan design created by Architects, Quincy Johnson Associates. It is the dominant feature as seen from the entryway by visitors. Johnson’s thematic architecture was replicated in the charming Visitor Information Center and the imposing entry gatehouse, as well as several of the original model homes – a group of ten on five different lot sizes grouped on a semi-circle greeting initial visitors, across a circular lake from the entry drive.
The new Lake Club was officially opened in the spring of 2005 at a gala reception of dignitaries and movie stars arranged by LWR executives. The timing appeared on target, for the new star attraction of Lakewood Ranch, which had enjoyed rapid growth through preceding years and had reached a record of over 1,000 new home sales in 2004. But, the rejoicing was short-lived.
Consumer demand for new homes began a steep decline nationwide during the second half of 2005, reaching a climax in October 2007 when the housing industry virtually stopped, paving the way for The Great Recession of 2008-09. Sales of high-price new homes at The Lake Club declined rapidly, and LWR officials reacted by introducing more diverse product offerings to increase consumer interest. But recovery was slow in coming.
However, the planning fundamentals underlying The Lake Club were based upon solid market research, and consumer demand returned by 2011. During the next three years, The Lake Club averaged over 30 sales per year. In 2013, over 1,100 first-time visitors registered in the Information Center, constituting over 2,400 persons viewing The Lake Club and its new model homes. Last year produced 31 builder contracts for new homes, with an average price of $1.3 million, 30 percent higher than sales in 2012. In February of 2014, 33 new homes are underway by seven builders, including the largest and most expensive home to date, exhibiting 21,850 square feet of interior living area.
In sum, The Lake Club has achieved its objective of a prestigious new community without a golf course. A total of 146 impressive homes now stand amidst the lakes and growing trees and shrubbery of these former agriculture fields – a tribute to all of the experts who contributed to its emergence as the star of one of this country’s best-planned and fastest-growing communities.
If you would like to explore further details on this or other stories, please contact Dr. David F. Parker at (904) 992-9888, or email@example.com or go to www.parkerassociates.com to read more about what Parker Associates can do for you.
Current metrics courtesy of Todd Pokrywa, SMR Vice-President of Planning
For more information about Lakewood Ranch and The Lake Club, contact: