Of all the possible indicators of economic recovery, perhaps none will boost consumer confidence as much as the recovery of the housing industry. According to Candice McElyea, spokesperson for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc., which oversees the development of Lakewood Ranch in Manatee and Sarasota counties, evidence of that recovery can be found in master-planned communities.
"Master-planned communities are leading the housing industry recovery," McElyea says. "Lakewood Ranch was just ranked the No. 2 best selling master-planned community in Florida and the No. 9 best selling master-planned community in the nation." (The communities were ranked by California-based John Burns Consulting.)
McElyea says that the recovery in master-planned communities will spur recovery in other areas of housing, but the success in Lakewood Ranch is a solid indication of the value that the community maintains regardless of the economy.
"I think people are ready to buy new homes again, and they want to buy in areas where they feel that the value of their investment will be safest and most protected," McElyea explains. "That is what master-planned communities like Lakewood Ranch really represent."
While Lakewood Ranch saw the sales of nearly 400 new homes in 2011 and expects to match or exceed that sales figure in 2012, according to McElyea, the true sign of recovery is in the commercial sector.
"Typically it takes a year after residential real estate recovery to see a recovery in commercial real estate, but in the Main Street area of Lakewood Ranch, we have nine new businesses opening this March and April," she explains.
Lakewood Ranch is a huge master-planned community by any measure, with 8,500 developed acres on a total of 31,000 acres of property. Currently there are more than 7,000 homes within the community, and McElyea says that the development within Lakewood Ranch will continue for the next 20 years or so.
"I think the reason we have been so successful in our recovery is because of all the amenities, different neighborhoods and housing choices that Lakewood Ranch has to offer," McElyea adds. "We have something for everyone, with homes in the $140,000 range to homes priced in the $5 million range and everything in between. We have single-family homes, villas, townhomes and mansions. The community is home to A-rated schools, including pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges and vocational schools.
"We even have a hospital, and we just opened our first active adult neighborhood, from builder Taylor Morrison," McElyea continues.
Although there are several neighborhoods within Lakewood Ranch, each one is within walking distance of parks by way of more than 150 miles of trails and sidewalks.
"We are the largest green-certified master-planned community in the state, and we devote a lot of resources to nature," McElyea says. "People love that. They move to Florida because they love the outdoors and we provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor enjoyment. We have some of the best golf courses in Florida as well as the Sarasota Polo Club. Plus, we constantly have different events going on — such as concerts, family events and arts festivals — that attract residents and people from outside the community."
Last year, Lakewood Ranch opened a 140-acre, 22-field sports campus to host national and international sporting events. Although developed in the depth of the recession, the campus generated nearly $30 million in economic development during its first year and brought people into the area at a time when the economy was suffering, according to McElyea.
"The big difference is that Lakewood Ranch is a community with all of these different neighborhoods and commercial enterprises intertwined with each other," McElyea adds. "That is the reason that people know that a home purchased here will maintain its value."
For information, visit www.lakewoodranch.com, or call 1-800-954-9578.