The Villages Daily Sun

Food Service Playing Big Role In Growth

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Posted: Monday, October 2, 2017 11:50 am

Subtle growth over the years in the number of restaurants and specialty food service providers has turned The Villages into a regional dining destination.

The 130 food service establishments now serving the community easily eclipses the total number of providers in communities like Ocala and Leesburg.

Add one more eatery to the list at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, when Metro Diner celebrates the official grand opening of its first restaurant in the community. It is located between Arby’s and McDonald’s on County Road 466 at Buffalo Ridge Plaza. The Tampa-based restaurant chain features an American-style menu.

Expect two more restaurants soon in the same area of the community.

Habaneros Mexican Grill is about to start interior demolition within the restaurant space it leased on the west end of Southern Trace Plaza.

Culvers, a Midwestern restaurant chain that features an American-style menu, also is near to acquiring the former Glitz on 466 building just off CR 466 and east of the Taco Bell at Southern Trace Plaza.

“Our food is always made to order; it’s fresh,” Culvers franchise owner Shad Finley said. “We can tell you where the food comes from, especially the beef, and it’s all U.S.”

Also: The growth in food services gets another boost at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday when Walmart Stores Inc. opens its first Neighborhood Market in The Villages at Sarasota Plaza, east of Morse Boulevard and south of Moyer Loop near the Village of Pine Ridge.

Also: New details emerged last week about Leesburg’s pending sale of 2,631 acres to The Villages. The city’s Planning & Zoning Board approved a comprehensive plan text amendment for what will be known as the Village of West Lake east of Florida’s Turnpike and north and south of County Road 470. The board also approved the development’s largest scale comprehensive plan.

Also: Wildwood grew by 2,014 acres last week thanks to The Villages’ expansion south of State Road 44. The Wildwood City Commission approved the voluntary annexation of 41 parcels that The Villages either owns or has contracts to purchase on the north and south side of the turnpike. Those properties eventually will link to the villages of Southern Oaks, Fenney and West Lake.

Also: Related to the annexation, Central Florida Health officials disclosed at a recent VHA meeting plans to develop a 24/7 emergency department on 40 acres due south of Brownwood, which exists very close to the property the Wildwood commission just annexed. The first phase could include an imaging medical practice with land still available for a golf cart-accessible hospital sometime in the future.

Also: Add to that work the Southern Oaks Phase III site plan disclosed during a recent Wildwood Planning & Zoning Board meeting. At about 868 acres, Phase III extends roughly from the 468-501 intersection northwest along Florida’s Turnpike. The master site plan application contained a map that identifies several residential neighborhoods, the location of a neighborhood commercial center, several recreation areas, golf amenities, open space and a large protected wetland area.

Also: This continuing growth illustrates why The Villages metropolitan statistical area ranked last month as the country’s ninth fastest-growing economy in 2016 with year-over-year 6 percent growth, according to the federal Bureau of Labor statistics. Consumer spending within the MSA accounted for a large portion of the $2.3 billion in GDP recorded in 2016.

Also: Wildwood recently got a good first glimpse at what’s to come in terms of population growth. The Bureau of Economic & Business Research at the University of Florida advised city officials the population grew by about 5.5 percent in 2016 to 8,454 residents. Much of that growth happened in the villages of Collier, Alden Bungalows and Antrim Dells near Brownwood.

Also: Speaking of population growth, The Villages welcomed about 1,725 new neighbors just from March through August. That means 115,656 people now live in the Lake, Marion and Sumter county sections of The Villages. Of the total, 10,416 residents live in Marion, 14,355 in Lake and 90,885 in Sumter.

Also: Extensive growth is taking place in The Villages from north to south and everywhere in between. Just about every retail center in the community has some type of new construction or redevelopment occurring, including Mulberry Grove, Spanish Plaines, Southern Trace, Colony Professional Plaza, Lake Deaton, Brownwood, Buffalo Ridge and even La Plaza Grande North, where The Villages is planning a revitalization of its first retail center.


David Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 9066, or