Sarasota and its beaches are no stranger to national lists highlighting the good life. But master-planned communities Lakewood Ranch and Wellen Park were recently honored as top planned communities by Ideal LIVING magazine.
The honorees were named in the publication’s summer issue, “America’s 100 Best Places to Live.”
Every year, Ideal LIVING surveys its readers to determine the most popular destinations. The lack of a state tax, a sunny climate, lots of outdoor activities and access to the arts scene in Sarasota were among the points that made Lakewood Ranch and Wellen Park shine.
The top reasons cited for living in a master-planned community were the people—a social network and a sense of community. Others were walkability, healthy lifestyle, proximity to health care, social clubs, well-maintained homes, and green spaces and landscaping. Philanthropy was also important. Readers wanted opportunities to give back and volunteer, be it with their time, talent or donations.
It's easy to see how Lakewood Ranch made the cut. It has more than 60 clubs, a parks and recreation program, and sports leagues. There are 150 miles of trails and nine community parks, plus walkable town centers including the recently opened Waterside Place. There’s also a medical center and philanthropic organizations including the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund.
The community is now home to more than 57,000 residents and is growing fast. There were 2,574 new home sales last year, up from 2,149 in 2020—a 19.8 percent increase year-over-year and its best sales year on record. In fact, it was recognized as the best-selling, master-planned, multi-generational community in the country for the fourth year in a row by RCLCO, an independent real estate consulting firm.
This is not Lakewood Ranch’s first mention by Ideal LIVING. Last year, The Ranch was also recognized as a top 100 community. In 2020, it was named in the “Best Health & Fitness Community” category for its recreational amenities, and in 2019, it was listed in the “Best Wellness Community” category.
Wellen Park, formerly known as West Villages, was recently ranked as the No. 4 top-selling master-planned community in the U.S. for two years in a row. Once completed, Downtown Wellen will feature an 80-acre lake, retail shops, restaurant waterfront dining and rooftop decks, pedestrian-friendly streets, a splash pad, a playground and a public town hall gathering place that will host live theater and music events. It will also have a hammock grove and a permanent food truck area.
Wellen Park is also home to the only Major League Baseball spring training park in the nation to be open year-round. CoolToday Park is already hosting public events throughout the year, like car shows, craft fairs, rummage sales, movie nights and a farmers’ market.
With approximately 8,000 residents, roughly 3,500 newcomers have been arriving annually and live among three districts: West Villages, Downtown Wellen and Playmore. At full build-out, Wellen Park will have more than 60,000 people and 22,000 homes. Wysteria is its latest neighborhood addition, with 153 British West Indies and coastal-style villas with lake and nature views.