The Villages Daily Sun

Signs of Growth Apparent From North to South

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Posted: Monday, August 7, 2017 9:45 am

Growth now affects every quadrant of The Villages, with the Developer announcing last week a plan to revitalize La Plaza Grande North Professional Plaza.

Just about every retail center in the community has some type of new construction or redevelopment occurring, including Mulberry Grove, Spanish Plaines, Buffalo Ridge, Southern Trace, Sarasota, Colony Professional Plaza, Lake Deaton and Brownwood.

At La Plaza Grande North, the original business district that served Orange Blossom Gardens, which became The Villages, the Developer plans to demolish five buildings, replace them with two new buildings and then reconfigure parking and traffic flow to make the retail center easier to navigate.

By the way, fans of El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant and the Circle K convenience store need not fret. Both will remain open through the revitalization efforts. 

Plans do require final approval by the Lady Lake Town Commission.

Don’t always equate growth with bricks and mortar.

Reunions of family, friends, schools and organizations are showing great gains as well.

Reunions also have a positive impact on bricks-and-mortar development, according to Christy Kitt, general manager of the Waterfront Inn resort hotel at Lake Sumter Landing.

“The reunions are the best thing for us and the area, because we get four days worth of rooms for 30 to 40 people,” she said. “Plus, there’s a lot to do elsewhere, and they can get around very easily, like going over to the other restaurants and (town) squares.”

Also: New information has been released about the Developer’s pending purchase of about 2,000 acres from the city of Leesburg. City Manager Al Minner confirmed that his staff members met with the Developer’s team to hear initial plans. The Developer envisions the development of 8,000 new homes and up to 3 million square feet of nonresidential usage on the property north and south of County Road 470 and adjacent to Florida’s Turnpike. The new home plan is in addition to the 14,000 already announced on 8,000 acres for the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks in neighboring Sumter County.

Also: Growth factored into the decisions by Publix Super Markets and Winn-Dixie Stores in their most recent revitalization efforts. Winn-Dixie at La Plaza Grande just completed an interior makeover, with all work done at night. Publix just set up electrical connections for the rebuilding of its store at Spanish Plaines Plaza.

The makeovers explain a lot about the grocers’ commitment to The Villages, said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development.

“The fact that each of these businesses have or are currently making significant capital expenditures to reinvest in their stores in The Villages speaks volumes about the strength of and their commitment to our market,” he said. “And their growth is vital. While each physical store might establish primarily a neighborhood reach, the scale that comes with expansion throughout our thriving community helps with brand awareness, efficiencies of operation and cost savings. And, ultimately, it gives our residents convenient access to a number of providers, offering choice and stability.”

Also: Village Community Development District 12, which includes the Village of Fenney, recently petitioned the city of Wildwood for permission to add 491 acres to its boundaries. That expansion would absorb the recently designated Village of McClure, another age-restricted community, at the southeast corner of county roads 468 and 501. If approved, the CDD would assume budgetary and operational control over a 1,190-acre area that includes both villages.

Also: In one of the more established districts, CDD 4, development is about to gear up in light of the marketing of seven planned mini-farms in the Village of Chatham Acres. These are 5- to 7-acre parcels that Properties of The Villages is selling west of Buena Vista Boulevard and south of County Road 42 in Marion County.

Also: Chatham Acres is part of vibrant new activity taking place in CDD 4. For example, activity recently ramped up at the Soulliere Villas at the Village of Chatham, which adjoins Chatham Acres. Nearby, Titan Senior Living is about to start commercial construction on the 120-bed Chatham Glen Skilled Nursing Facility adjacent to Soulliere. And, just a short golf cart ride away, workers are installing trusses at the Cody’s Original Roadhouse restaurant at Mulberry

Grove Plaza.

Also: Growth emerged as a big discussion item for the Fruitland Park City Commission during its recent budget workshops. Because of growth in the villages of Pine Ridge and Pine Hills, the city forecast a 15 percent year-over-year increase in new revenue from electric franchise fees, garbage franchise fees, electric utility tax, communications, service tax and water utility tax. In May, the Census Bureau ranked the city as the seventh-fastest-growing U.S. city and the fastest-growing in Florida. The population in 2016 grew by 34.4 percent, adding about 1,539 new residents for a total population of 6,018. By the way, the growth in those two villages contributed to the 64 percent year-over-year increase in the city’s taxable value; now at about $492 million.

Also: Just in case you missed it, Gov. Rick Scott likes what he sees happening in The Villages. During a visit in early July to honor veterans, Scott expressed strong support for The Villages’ continued growth. The governor solidly backs the announcement by The Villages Developer earlier this year to expand and build the 14,000 new homes. “There’s not many other places growing like The Villages, in the entire state or anywhere in the country, or anywhere the world,” he told the Daily Sun in an exclusive interview.

Also: Year-over-year employment in June grew by 4.1 percent or 1,100 in The Villages metropolitan statistical area, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Also: That job growth, with a large portion of it occurring in the home-building sectors, also explains why The Villages ranks as the nation’s second top-selling master-planned community, with 17 percent year-over-year growth for the six months ended June 30, according to the researchers at RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, one of the U.S. real estate industry’s go-to sources for research and consultation services.

Also: The continuing growth of The Villages MSA accounts for the latest gains in real personal income, according to a report released in July by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. From 2011 to 2015, real personal income in the MSA grew by about $831 million over the five-year period. Real personal income in the MSA totals about $4.64 billion. And all indicators suggest that growth continued into this year, too.

Also: The drum beats on in The Villages commercial construction sector. At Lake Deaton Plaza, for instance, Chase Bank recently opened a branch office. And work just reached the dry-in phase at the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop convenience store. SunTrust Bank also just received a permit to build a new branch office.

Also: Commercial growth continues at Buffalo Ridge Plaza, where Metro Diner is advancing quickly on interior renovations at the restaurant building the owners leased between Arby’s and McDonald’s on County Road 466. Plans call for an October opening of the 4,813-square-foot restaurant. Nearby, footer-and-pier work started at the PetSmart retail store and pet hotel just off Wedgewood Lane and adjacent to the Bealls Department Store.

Also: Commercial construction continues on the fast track at Élan Buena Vista, Together with The Villages, a 224-unit independent, assisted-living and memory care facility at Buena Vista and CR 466. Titan Senior Living, the developer, now expects to receive the certificate of occupancy in February.

Also: Resident interest still continues over the June 20 unveiling in the Daily Sun of a detailed map that contains the Developer’s vision for the area in and around the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks. It included the naming of two new villages, McClure and Desoto, and a wealth of new recreation facilities, as well as new golf cart tunnels and bridges.

Also: The Developer continues to pursue avenues of easy golf cart access to Fenney and Southern Oaks from sites near Rohan Recreation Center and the Brownwood town center. Plans call for the development of three multimodal bridges. One is a multimodal path bridge near Rohan Recreation Center that would cross State Road 44. It would link the 652 acres to future planning areas, including the 2,000 acres the city of Leesburg has agreed to sell to the Developer. The second multimodal bridge across SR 44 at Buena Vista would permit access into a 359-acre parcel the Developer has purchased, and then connect to a second multimodal bridge over Florida’s Turnpike. Golf carts then would be able to access Southern Oaks, Desoto and Fenney via a golf cart tunnel just west of the 468-501 intersection. Another multimodal tunnel about a quarter mile south of the 468-501 intersection would link McClure with Southern Oaks, Fenney and Desoto.

Also: The Villages is moving forward with a new 150-room hotel next to Grand Traverse Plaza that will include an upscale full-service spa, a resort-style pool, 10,000 square feet of conference space and a Wolfgang Puck-licensed restaurant. The development also will include an advanced 250,000-square-foot medical center.

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