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Dateline: Schroeder-Manatee.

Pay attention, Sarasota. There's a big new city rising down the road.


A quick course in the new city.

Schroeder-Manatee Ranch. Founded, 1915. In 1920s, acquired by Uihlein family, Schlitz brewers of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today owned by trusts benefiting their descendants. 21,000 acres in Sarasota, 7,000 in Manatee. Chairman of board and CEO: Mary Fran Carroll; president: John Clarke.

Total acreage of project: 5,500 acres.

Total square footage at build-out: 11.3 million square feet of stores, offices, factories and warehouses.

Communities: Cypress Banks: 1,800 acres; three golf courses; 5,600 residences. University Lakes: 3,100 dwelling units; one golf course; 1.2 million square feet of commercial space; 1.8-million square-foot office park. University Place: 1,400 acres with 8.3 million square feet of office and light industrial.

Over the next 20 years a large city will rise from cow pasture on the Schroeder-Manatee Ranch out beyond the intersection of I-75 and University Parkway. It will be bigger than downtown Tampa, bigger, in fact, than downtown Memphis, our nation's 16th-largest city.

It will dominate Sarasota and Bradenton both economically and socially, and affect every phase of life here, from prices, taxes, wages and the amount of traffic on our streets to the average age of our population, how we earn our living and how we spend our free time. If built as planned, it will change this region profoundly. If you're surprised to hear this, you're not alone.

The Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Inc. (SMR) has been quietly moving this bi-county development through the regulatory process for the past several years. But in spite of occasional references in the local press and some discussion at county commission meetings, few people seem to understand the amazing scope of this project.

But it's coming. Manatee County has already approved the project. The Sarasota County Commission will probably approve it this fall. Work is already beginning on the first step, the extension of the University Parkway into the heart of the ranch.

Maybe the reason the sheer size of this project hasn't registered with most people is that the new city is always presented as three individual projects: in Manatee County, Cypress Banks, a residential community with golf courses and some shopping, and University Lakes, a mixed-use community with homes, an office park, regional mall and hotel; and facing them across University Parkway on the Sarasota County side, University Place, with offices, warehouses and light industrial space.

All together, it's a bold blueprint for a new city, but what makes anyone think it will really happen? After all, business space in downtown Sarasota and Bradenton is going begging. Where will the companies and the people come from to fill all this new space? The answer is that SMR doesn't need to rely on the people or the business climate here for this to work. Instead, it expects to attract large regional or national corporations that deal more in knowledge and information than commodities.

These are the companies that are expanding these days, and they're looking for sites that offer a trainable local workforce, modern office buildings in a pretty, natural setting, a big shopping mall, a major airport, plenty of local amenities and a fast commute home -- eight miles is about right for most corporate executives, says Joel Garreau, whose "Edge City" chronicles the rise of new cities like this one all over the United States.

This new breed of companies shuns traditional downtowns where there's too little parking and too many miles and traffic jams to the nearest airport. We might dismiss Schroeder-Manatee as out in the boondocks, but they'll see its location next to I-75 as right where they want to be, an important regional junction, a few minutes from the airport and a bare hour from Tampa.

Almost as important in relocation decisions in the '90s is the lifestyle an area offers. We have golf, tennis, boating, fishing, and good weather -- not to mention Tampa's big-league sports and Walt Disney World just a few hours up the road. Equestrian sports and upland bird shooting are currently fashionable with executives -- and Schroeder-Manatee just happens to have great polo facilities and excellent quail hunting. Executives will also see Sarasota's cultural reputation as a big attraction.

True, the economy looks bleak right now, but so far, our economy has always recovered from cyclic reverses. The officers of SMR are taking a long-term approach, and plan to develop the project in pace with the economy, no faster.

It really looks as if this project can succeed. And if it does, its effects will be profound.

First of all, our economy will change.

Right now, Sarasota has a seasonal economy, with a wide gap between our high-income retirees and visitors and the low-wage workers who serve them. Schroeder-Manatee's enormous project offers the kind of economic numbers that could break the back of a seasonal economy.

At build-out, it could generate about 28,000 permanent jobs -- and that doesn't include support and service jobs created by the project, nor the construction jobs to build it. People who now have to accept low wages or unchallenging jobs to stay in Sarasota and Manatee would have a wealth of new opportunities. That's why business and government leaders -- without whose approval it all would have remained a developer's dream -- love this project.

Our demographic makeup will also change. We'll go from having one of the oldest average ages in the nation to a much younger population. And instead of the present gap between the retired "haves" and the working "have-nots," these young workers will start sharing the wealth.

Even its most ardent supporters recognize that the new city will create some problems. Taxes will most likely go up. Developers usually claim that impact fees offset the heavy cost of the public works (roads, water treatment, sewage treatment plants) that projects of this size always engender. In fact, they seldom do, because in order to encourage development, counties tries to keep their impact fees low enough to compete with other counties. The taxpayers (who else?) will pay the difference, and long before they'll see any benefits.

Consider how just the increased traffic will affect the area's infrastructure. By 1997, Schroeder-Manatee foresees 67,479 project-related automobile trips per day -- and that's just for phase one. The project will also increase traffic on roads in other parts of the counties.

The environmental impact is difficult to assess. The entire project is located in the Evers watershed, so it could degrade Bradenton's water supply. Both developer and county claim it won't, but environmental groups such as Manasota 88 contend that it will. Water usage will certainly rise dramatically. At a recent county hearing, state wildlife officials asserted that no endangered species would be put at hazard.

Environmentalists don't much like development, but when it's unavoidable, they prefer developments that concentrate human activity, as this does, rather than those that allow it to spread and sprawl. Of course, much natural landscape will disappear, but the project seems to be designed around natural features rather than through them. Much acreage will be left untouched, snakes and 'gators left in place.

The new city will also subtly and not so subtly change the character of Bradenton and Sarasota. We'll go from a small bi-city area to a medium-sized tri-city area. Bradenton and Sarasota could be eclipsed by their much-larger new neighbor, their downtowns made obsolete and their identities lost in the general metropolis. But there are opportunities as well as dangers.

Sarasota, with its bayfront, theaters, opera, ballet and symphony, could become the tri-city area's waterside cultural and entertainment capital, providing a layer of attractive sophistication over the otherwise mundane corporate business culture that seems to be our future. But it will have to build on its cultural strengths -- which means more and better. Improving and preserving the bayfront will be critical; so will redeveloping downtown as an exciting commercial adjunct to the waterfront. Public art, aesthetic enhancement, more nightlife that accents the kind of elegance traditionally associated with Sarasota, even 50-year plans -- all have a role to play.

Bradenton's role is less clear-cut. It will benefit initially from the massive construction effort, but when the building is over, what then? It could become the business and support community for the tri-city area, the maintenance and wholesale supply department, the service center. But Bradenton also has a beautiful waterfront and fine beaches on Anna Maria. Those areas could become home to many executives and workers from the new city. Arcadia, just a few miles down the road, will also be greatly affected.

New cities are part of our future. They are rising and challenging our traditional ways of living and doing business all over the country. Not every old city so challenged will be able to survive. But Sarasota has enough natural and cultural advantages that if we develop our strategy now, we can share in the growth and prosperity of this big new kid on the block.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Clubhouse Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:future city near Sarasota
Author:Gigliotti, Davidson
Publication:Sarasota Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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