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2 projects under contract in Lakewood Ranch biomedical research park

LAKEWOOD RANCH — One year after revealing ambitious plans for a biomedical research park here, the developer says the first two projects are under contract and the deals should close early next year.

While neither is the major life-science player being sought to anchor the 265-acre CORE at Lakewood Ranch, they would represent the start of development of the business and educational campus.

The update on CORE — “Collaboration Opportunities for Research and Exploration” — comes during the second annual Health Innovation Week that promotes the 130 companies working in that sector in the Sarasota-Manatee area.

Lakewood Ranch Commercial, the development arm of Lakewood Ranch master developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, has said it will first build some amenities — retail stores, restaurants, a gym — that would help attract companies and institutes to CORE.

Kirk Boylston, president at Lakewood Ranch Commercial, didn’t want to disclose the initial projects, but said Monday that CORE is proceeding as planned.

“We’re spending a lot of time working on networking and putting the project out there before starting to work on specific projects,” he said. “It’s medical facilities, it’s users related to pharma or life sciences or biotech, just all of the branches of life sciences that we are trying to attract.”

The center is intended to energize the region’s relatively small but growing life-sciences sector, helping draw new employers and high-paying jobs to an economy long reliant on tourism, retirees and real estate.

The park may contain up to 4.2 million square feet of construction over the next 10 to 20 years. It will be in the northeast quadrant of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, bounded on the north by Rangeland Parkway.

“These projects are a lengthy process,” Boylston said. “The major projects and educational pieces, there is a long duration before you actually see something out of the ground.”

Plans also include a 300-room hotel and conference center. Research and laboratory buildings, four to six stories tall, would be constructed around a courtyard. Flanking them would be a cluster of office buildings.

The key to the project will be landing an educational institution, research institute or hospital, or a major corporation such as a pharmaceutical company or medical device manufacturer to anchor the park, said Sharon Hillstrom, president/CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp.

“Yes, it is very competitive,” Hillstrom said. “But I think we have a good shot. There’s a lot of things going on down here that would be appealing to bring a company here.”

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