There is no end in sight to the community’s economic development.
Tens of thousands of new homes, a state-of-the-art medical complex, first-time apartment homes, driverless cars, a shooter’s gallery with firing range and training facility, an industrial park, several new recreation centers, dog parks, restaurants—all of these additions are coming soon to The Villages.
Statistically, The Villages has added some 5,000 new residents annually and has been the nation’s fastest-growing area for four of the past five years, according to a report on growth in The Villages. As a census-designated place in Sumter County, it consistently ranks as a high-growth area in the U.S. Census.
“Several seven-acre plots of land, like small farms, were offered this past year on a trial basis, and all immediately sold,” says Donna Fenster, sales and marketing representative for the Properties of The Villages. “They’re also going to develop an industrial park and predict 20,000 jobs will be created. It will be near the Coleman Correctional Facility.”
One of the newest inhabited areas, the Village of Fenney in the southernmost part of The Villages, opened just over a year ago and already has 1,100 residents. Some 500 homes—both new and pre-owned—sell each month. Zillow.com reports there were 12,640 recent real estate transactions in The Villages.
In November, the developer received approval from the city of Leesburg for development of up to 2,800 more homes on a recently purchased parcel of 1,127 acres north of County Road 470 near the Florida Turnpike, within Leesburg city limits. Known as the Village of West Lake, it sits next to the previously announced Village of Southern Oaks in Wildwood, where up to 26,950 homes may be built on 13,637 acres of land. The way has also been paved for possible future construction of cellphone towers in the Village of West Lake, more homes, and a fourth town square, all according to announcements from the developer.
Connectivity will be everywhere, by golf cart. From the established areas of the community to the new developments, construction of multiple bridges, including one over the turnpike, will assure connectivity to every part of the approximately 34 square miles of The Villages and all its amenities.
One bridge will cross over State Road 44 in an area between Brownwood Paddock Square and the Village of Fenney; the second will cross over the turnpike a few miles south near the Okahumpka Service Plaza, connecting both golf cart and vehicle traffic to the newly acquired acreage in Leesburg. Thousands of new homes are planned for that area, the developer says.
The new bridges will be constructed of corten steel, which “weathers to form a rust-like appearance that eliminates the need for painting,” according to The Villages website.
Recreation centers continue to sprout as centerpieces to the newly planned villages of Marsh Bend, Linden, Monarch Grove, DeLuna, Bradford, De Soto, and McClure, among others. Recreation centers to open in 2019 are named Swallowtail, Cattail, and River Bend. Expected to arrive in the fall is Magnolia Plaza shopping area, a golf course named Lowlands, an 18-hole short course named Marsh View Pitch ‘n Putt, and a major addition called Everglades Recreation Complex & Hogeye Nature Trail, which will feature a sports pool, meeting rooms, theater, soccer field, boat dock, softball complex, basketball, pickleball, platform tennis, bocce, shuffleboard, corn toss, and 16 miles of walking trails, according to a promotional brochure from The Villages.
New restaurants continue to open, and Lazy Mac’s Taco Shack will be inside the Old Mill Playhouse movie theater at Lake Sumter Landing. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is expected to open in the first quarter of 2019 with 1,200 square feet leased at Grand Traverse Plaza, next door to Brownwood.
“Cornerstone Hospice House is adding a new 12-bed hospice house, chapel, and pavilion to its existing site,” Donna adds. That location is at 601 Casa Bella, near Morse Boulevard and County Road 466. “Ground has also been broken for a 120-bed skilled nursing facility on Route 42 next to the First Baptist Church of The Villages.”
Additional projects under construction are the Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood, according to the developer’s annual presentation to residents. This 198,000-square-foot, six-story multi-specialty facility is at 2910 Brownwood Blvd. A 150-room resort hotel, 10,000 square feet of conference space, a Wolfgang Puck-licensed restaurant, and a spa also will be constructed there. The health-care center and hotel are close together in case there is a need for family or friends to stay nearby.
Brownwood Cancer Center is coming in 2020, as well as the first planned apartment facility, the Lofts at Brownwood, located at 2660 Trillium Ridge on the northern edge of Brownwood Paddock Square.
Shooter’s World will offer a firearms retail store, shooting range, and training center within its 52,177-square-foot facility at Powell Plaza in Brownwood. Some 2,500 memberships, which give access to the range over walk-in customers, have already been sold pre-opening.
The Villages Grown is a self-sustaining agricultural project coming to the Southern Oaks region at 7275 State Road 44. Installation of greenhouses will offer garden-to-plate controlled agriculture that will furnish food to some area restaurants, according to Villages announcements.
“Voyage, a driverless transportation company, will start accepting passenger rides in the Virginia Trace neighborhood as its pilot program in early 2019,” says Fred Briggs, president of The Villages Homeowners Association. By late summer, the company hopes to have a fleet of 20-plus self-driving taxis servicing all 750 miles of roads that run through The Villages, according to The VHA Voice.
Where will it end? One word that always has been bandied about in The Villages is “buildout,” when there’s no more land on which to build. The truth is, The Villages won’t reach buildout anytime soon; there are just so many plans still in the making. Stay tuned.
Lady Lake and Fruitland Park also are growing
The Villages encompasses parts of the town of Lady Lake and the city of Fruitland Park, but those communities have their own commercial developments coming in 2019.
Town Manager/Town Clerk Kristen Kollgaard says Lady Lake projects include:
- Basics Range & Gun includes a 9,600-square-foot shooting range, 5,940-square-foot gun store, and 3,780-square-foot retail space. It also includes a 62-space RV storage lot, and seven storage spaces for boats at 315 S. Highway 27/441.
- Green Key Village, where 27 age-restricted cottage lots will be constructed in a subdivision development on Lake Ella Road.
- WaWa convenience store and gas station, with a 6,119-square-foot store and eight fueling islands, will be located at the southwest corner of U.S. Highway 27/441 and County Road 466.
- Tanner Building, a 10,000-square-foot general retail store, will be located at the intersection of West McClendon Street and CR 466.
- Teague Plaza will offer a two-story, 11,805-square-foot space with a diner and retail stores on the bottom floor, and six apartment units on the second floor near county Road 25 at Griffin Drive.
- Village Veranda, a 116-unit assisted-living facility with 30 memory care units, is under construction at 955 S. U.S. Highway 27/441.
- Lady Lake Commons is a 19-acre development with an 85,000-square-foot shopping center and four commercial outparcels at the southeast corner of Fennell Boulevard and U.S. Highway 27/441.
- Griffin View Commercial is a 2,400-square foot, two-tenant location being remodeled from an abandoned convenience store at the corner of Griffin View Avenue and U.S. Highway 27/441.
- City Manager Gary La Venia says Fruitland Park projects include:
- A new city library, a one-floor, 12,000-square-foot facility, will open on Berckman Street sometime in the first quarter of 2019. The current library will become the city’s first new community center.
- First Baptist Church of Leesburg will open its new Village Park campus in 2019.
- County Road 466A will be widened to four lanes. The expected completion date is July.