Proposed Brownwood Emergency Department Gains Traction - The Villages Daily Sun: Growth

Proposed Brownwood Emergency Department Gains Traction

By David R. Corder, Daily Sun Senior Writer | Posted: Monday, November 13, 2017 9:39 am

The plan to develop an emergency department due south of Brownwood in light of growth in and around the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks took a big step forward.

An affiliate of Central Florida Health, the nonprofit parent of The Villages Regional Hospital and Leesburg Regional Medical Center, just closed on the purchase of nine parcels on the south side of State Road 44 directly across from Meggison Road at Brownwood.

Wildwood Transfer LLC paid about $6.6 million for 38 acres, according to Sumter County property records.

The buyer’s managers include Don Henderson, Central Florida Health president and CEO, and Phil Braun, the nonprofit’s vice president and chief counsel, according to state corporation records.

Members of the VHA, The Villages homeowner advocacy and community service group, learned exclusively from Henderson at a Sept. 13 general meeting about the nonprofit hospital group’s intent to develop a golf cart accessible emergency department and medical imaging service on that site.

Timing is critical to developing these vital services, Henderson told the group.

The need to expand emergency services at the planned Brownwood site also stems from already increased patient demand at the Leesburg hospital from residents in and around the Brownwood area, Henderson told VHA members.

“Leesburg Regional Medical Center is overwhelmed, and it’s getting busier,” he said.

The future expansion into the Brownwood area is a critical step in continuing The Villages’ goal of becoming America’s healthiest hometown, state Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages, who serves on the CFH board of directors, told the Daily Sun.

“It is important to realize The Villages has expanded its vision for the community by expanding over the next 20 to 30 years,” said Hahnfeldt, of the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona. “Central Florida Health is stepping up to match the community’s health needs to accommodate this new vision. It’s an exciting new step forward for the community.”

In light of the continuing demand, the Leesburg hospital already has started construction on a 24-bed expansion to its emergency department, he said.

The Leesburg and pending Brownwood expansion also complement expansion of The Villages hospital’s emergency department in December 2015 as part of a $55 million project that also added medical-surgical beds, intensive-care beds and a fifth-floor that houses long-term rehabilitation beds.

Because of patient demand, The Villages hospital also currently is upgrading its emergency services, Michael Pittman, Central Florida Health’s chief clinical officer and The Villages hospital site administrator, said in a recent interview.

“Over the past three years, three sections of the ER have been remodeled and we’re installing new systems,” he said. “It’s about keeping the ER looking good and keeping it updated.”

Also, in other growth-related activity: The Villages just attracted one of the nation’s fastest-growing women’s retail chains.

Soft Surroundings leased 5,057 square feet for a storefront underneath Katie Belle’s at Spanish Springs, with plans to open in the third quarter next year or sooner.

Founded in 1999 as a catalog retailer, the St. Louis-based company opened its first Florida store earlier this year at Estero’s Coconut Pointe Mall, followed by a second store in Sarasota’s University Town Center.

It’s also known for high-end women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories, shoes, bedding and home accents and even on-site beauty and well-being services.

To illustrate the level of products it sells, Soft Surroundings sought out tenant space near Saks Fifth Avenue at the Sarasota mall.

Considerable effort went into negotiating this lease, said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development.

“They’re definitely growing, but also conservative about the locations they pick,” he said. “We’ve been in discussions with them for more than a year. They’ve also got a following in The Villages. Through that network of customers here, they were very aware of The Villages as a growth market. So, we’re excited they’re coming.”

Also: For two consecutive months, The Villages remained the only Florida metro market where home values have fully recovered from the mid-2000 national residential real estate collapse, CoreLogic announced last week in its September report. In part, The Villages stands alone in regained home values because it didn’t lose the type of value experienced elsewhere in Florida.

Also: Daily Sun readers learned last week The Villages on average continues to outpace the state in construction activity. That’s because of a 44 percent year-over-year increase in residential building permits Sumter County issued for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 and a 28 percent year-over-year increase in the value of documentary stamp taxes assessed on Sumter home deeds.

 David Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or david.corder@thevillagesmedia.com.