Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Early sales success at Central Park

Last week Neal Communities unveiled the massive Central Park at Lakewood project, projected ultimately to have 800 homes. These are the first homes at Lakewood Ranch to be built north of State Road 70.

A lot of hopes are riding on this project, one of the largest in Manatee County since the real estate market meltdown.

So, how did they do in their first weekend of being open for business?

Neal reports 15 contracts in three days: 13 contracts for Neal and two for Bruce Williams Homes.

Prices start at $126,990.

“As we have seen this year so far, the buyers are definitely out there. The smart buyers, who are responsible for the majority of the traffic we are currently seeing at our communities, are making deals now, because this is the time for buyers to get more value for their home-buying dollars,” said Pat Neal, president of Neal Communities in a press release.


Nonprofits invited to apply for grants

The Lakewood Ranch Community Fund is now accepting grant applications from nonprofits and public schools providing services in the Lakewood Ranch area.

The deadline for submitting requests is Sept. 1.

Traditionally, the grants are awarded to a variety of organizations that serve the most vulnerable among us. The grant awards will be made in October.

This year, grants will be awarded in the areas of education, health and human services.

Applications and guidelines are available online at or by calling  556-5442.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plenty of raw emotion

When a four-member team from Southern Manatee Fire & Rescue returned tonight to Bradenton with a window column support beam from the World Trade Center, there was plenty of raw emotion.

There were a few tears, and plenty of red, white and blue from several hundred people who gathered in the gloom at Firkin & Fox Restaurant to greet the team, and more than a few had some kind of a personal connection with the fallen towers.

A chef who once cooked meals high atop the World Trade Center, and who now teaches at Southeast High School was there. And any number of firefighters who will always feel a special kinship with nearly 350 fire fighters who died in the towers were there.

No matter that the team and their very long motorcycle escort arrived an hour late. Blame it on a flat tire in Georgia.

And did we say that when the team rolled into the restaurant parking lot, it was 9:11 p.m.?

For more, see Monday's Herald.


Friday, July 16, 2010

World Trade Center beam to arrive in Bradenton Sunday

A team representing Southern Manatee Fire Rescue is headed south with a beam from the fallen World Trade Center in New York City.

 Brad Ranney, Bradly Ranney, Dallas Leitner and Ryan Kaliher are due to arrive back in Bradenton 8 p.m. Sunday. You can welcome them and see the beam at 8 p.m. at Firkin & Fox Restaurant, 2505 Manatee Ave. E.

Photos of the loadup Friday courtesy of Dallas Leitner.

On Sept. 11, a memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks of nine years ago, will be dedicated at the Southern Manatee administration building. The memorial will incorporate the beam that is being brought to Bradenton.

Here's the team's travel itinerary:


 8 a.m. depart New York/New Jersey

9:15 a.m. pass Trenton, N.J.

10:30 a.m. arrive Delaware

11 a.m. arrive Maryland

2 p.m. arrive Virginia

5:15 p.m. arrive North Carolina

7:30 p.m. arrive Fayetteville, N.C.


8 a.m. depart Fayetteville

9 a.m. arrive South Carolina

noon arrive Georgia

3 p.m. arrive Florida

5 p.m. arrive Daytona Beach

6 p.m. pass Orlando

7:15 p.m. pass Tampa

8 p.m. arrive Bradenton


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Like Grandma's house, sort of

The Central Park project at Lakewood Ranch is really good news for Manatee County with the jobs it has created and the hoped-for boost to the economy.

It's a big gamble for developer Pat Neal, who has invested millions to turn pasture into a new family-oriented neighborhood. Pat believes that he has timed the market perfectly and is positioned to benefit from a rebound, especially with houses that start at $126,990.

I had a chance to preview Central Park today and it is beautifully done. There were  children from the Y playing in the park. With their squeals and laughter, it didn't take much to imagine how daily life might be at Central Park this time next year.

A Bruce Williams model caused me to do a double take. The exterior is reminiscent of the house my grandmother had in St. Augustine back in the 1950s. Front porch, a series of columns out front. It gives it that neighborhood feeling. Inside, however, it's all up-to-date, spacious and attractive. Grandma wouldn't recognize it.

Here's hoping for great success with this new development, coming as it does now in such difficult economic times.

For more, see Friday's Herald.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A celebration of freedom and democracy

Tonight, I sat and watched as Lakewood Ranch citizens discussed, debated, and disagreed over the charter for a proposed city of Lakewood Ranch.

Wonderful, this exercise of free speech.

And I thought back to earlier in the day covering the departure of a team from Southern Manatee Fire and Rescue District, which headed out for New Jersey to retrieve a 12-foot beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. That beam will be incorporated in a local 911 memorial.

The team and that sacred beam, which will forever have enormous meaning for Americans after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, is due back in Bradenton Sunday night. What that beam symbolizes to me is the blood of hundreds and hundreds of innocent people who were killed in the attack. And the determination of America to practice democracy as it always has, and for Americans to cling to their personal freedoms.

And I saw a little boy waving goodbye to his father as his truck pulled onto 45th Street East to begin the long drive to New Jersey.

As Fire Chief Foster Gover says, it's enough to give you "goose bumps."

For more, see Thursday's Herald.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Happy birthday Ringo

This is very cool.

Ringo Starr, touring with this year's all-star band, was surprised on his 70th birthday this week when former Beatle and band mate Paul McCartney made a surprise appearance on stage to perform "Birthday."

Check out the YouTube video. That's none other than Manatee County resident Rick Derringer on stage playing guitar.

That has to be a highlight of Rick's storied rock 'n' roll, Hoochie Koo, Hang On Sloopy career.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Issues to debate in East Manatee

There's no end of contentious issues in East Manatee.

Waterlefe, the community closest to the south landing of the proposed Fort Hamer bridge,is growing restive. Bridge design work is underway, and some of those involved with those plans were out on Upper Manatee River Road today.

For more, see Richard Dymond's story in Wednesday's Herald.

Also, just a few miles south of Fort Hamer is Lakewood Ranch, where community leaders are looking seriously at incorporation.

Jo Anne Dain, a member of the Lakewood Ranch Community Coalition, advises that a presentation is scheduled on city charter concepts 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 14, at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.

“Now that the feasibility study has been completed, it is time for residents to think about how we should govern ourselves if we become a city,” said Dain. “A charter is similar to a state constitution. It provides the governance structure for a city. The LWR Incorporation Study Committee prepared a draft, and we want resident feedback. Their opinions matter. Some specific issues that will be addressed include voting districts, how city council members should be elected, and term limits.”

The event is open to the public and free of charge. For more information, contact Dain, at 907-1029 or