- March 13, 2020
Even some of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch President and CEO Rex Jensen’s closest friends told him developing Lakewood Ranch was crazy when he joined the family-led development company in 1994.
“I still have the scars from all the people who told me we were insane,” Jensen tells consulting firm RCLCO in the latest installment of its online “Great Minds in Real Estate” interview series.
Today, Lakewood Ranch — a 54-square-mile tract that straddles Manatee and Sarasota counties and contains 31,000 acres and more than 36,000 residents — is among the nation’s fastest-growing master-planned communities.
“I looked at the property on a map and saw nothing but potential,” Jensen tells RCLCO Managing Director Gregg Logan during a nearly hour-long interview.
Jensen, who was named Schroeder-Manatee president in August 2002 and CEO in early 2005, began his real estate career in Ann Arbor, Mich., developing a business park. He also ran his own consulting company in Tampa prior to joining Schroeder-Manatee 26 years ago.
He tells RCLCO that much of Lakewood Ranch’s success stems from the developer’s use of Community Development District (CDD) bonds, which alleviated the need for short-term debt to finance individual projects or infrastructure and allowed the company to complete projects for end users.
Of the $600 million in CDD debt Schroeder-Manatee took on, most of it has since been retired.
“We survived the last recession because of our financing,” Jensen says. “Now, we don’t really have any debt to speak of.”
He notes, too, that master-planned communities are unique and offer possibilities infill projects can’t.
“A master-planned community gives you the opportunity to do it right and positively impact the end user,” Jensen says. “The way I approach it, this is not a project; it’s a community. It’s the difference between a square and a cube.”
Jensen becomes the second Gulf Coast real estate executive to be featured in the podcast series. Last year, Strategic Property Partners’ CEO James Nozar was interviewed about Water Street Tampa, the $3 billion development transforming downtown Tampa.