Lakewood Ranch Commercial, an arm of master developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, announced plans to develop a biotech business campus dubbed CORE (Collaborative Opportunities for Research and Exploration) on 265 acres at the northeast corner of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, the last major underdeveloped property at one of LWR’s busiest intersections.
In late May, Orlando-based Tavistock Development Company became the first developer to commit to the project. Called The Green, the 35-acre development is expected to be anchored by the organic supermarket chain Earth Fare and will include 150,000 square feet of retail, office and restaurant space and a four-story apartment complex with more than 300 units. Construction began in June with a goal of opening the first businesses in early 2018.
A commercial-residential project may not sound like it has much in common with the CORE goal. But Kirk Boylston, president of Lakewood Ranch Commercial, says Tavistock was the right company to boost efforts nationally and even internationally to attract tenants ranging from a large pharmaceutical company to a research hospital to an educational institution. He points to Tavistock’s development of Lake Nona Medical City, a 650-acre health and life sciences park in Orlando that includes the University of Central Florida’s Life Sciences campus.
Tavistock vice paresident Skipper Peek says scientists want to be close to amenities. “A scientist from Boston doesn’t want to work in a research park located off on some field,” he says. “Lakewood Ranch already has great housing and schools. In addition to Earth Fare, we’re going to bring seven or eight restaurants, a fitness facility and other amenities that will help Lakewood Ranch realize its goal with the CORE project.”
Boylston says the research hub will follow. “Something of this magnitude is always going to be a somewhat slow and deliberate process,” he says. “But we’re in talks with several potential partners and feel good about finding one that will be a good fit for the project.”
CORE is expected to complement LWR’s northern corridor that already includes LECOM’s dental and medical school campuses.
Boylston says a zoning change by the Manatee County Commission in March permitting light industrial manufacturing on the site should boost LWR’s ability to attract an anchor development.
“The light manufacturing designation is required if we’ve got a company that wants to do something like manufacture contact lenses or medical devices,” Boylston says. “If you’re talking to almost anyone in the biotech industry, a pharmaceutical company, they want to produce something on site, and whereas previously we were not able to tell them that we had that zoning in place, now we can, which has helped us build traction in those talks.”
Tavistock’s Peek says he learned from the Lake Nona project that such ambitious goals take time. “We used to say it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Peek says. “But now we say it’s a marathon in which you’re sprinting the whole time.”