At the bottom of the housing bust in 2008-09, the Lakewood Ranch development had about 850 homes on the market. That number has been reduced to about 215, says public relations manager Candice McElyea, a sign that the 8,500-acre development in Sarasota and Manatee counties is on the verge of an economic rebound.
Furthermore, McElyea says, Lakewood Ranch expects to sell 350-400 homes this year, which could signal a resurgence in construction in the development.
In January, 24 new home contracts were signed or reservations made and 68 new homes already were under construction.
"This is the highest amount of construction activity we have seen on the ranch since 2006," said Lakewood Ranch Communities President Milt Flinn. "We are excited and encouraged by the sales we have experienced in the first month of the year; in addition our traffic is up considerably compared to this time last year."
According to figures compiled by McElyea's office, visitors to Lakewood Ranch's models and information center increased by 35 percent in January, with 997, compared to 741 in January 2009.
The number of return visitors in January also increased: 387 in January 2010, compared to 256 in January 2009.
There have been promising signs on the retail side, as well. Ad Relevancy and Smith and Dine law offices opened recently at Lakewood Ranch's Energy Court Center and Sarasota architect Don Lawson moved his office to Lakewood Ranch.
A health and wellness center, operated by physician Harvey Mishner, recently opened in a former bank building on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.
"I think, overall, the economy is getting better," says McElyea. "But it's going to recover fastest where people feel their value is protected. We have so many more years of development and growth that are going to happen here. Obviously, the country is suffering now, but there are little pockets of places that are going to come back sooner."
Writer: Carter Gaddis
Source: Candice McElyea, Lakewood Ranch