The Villages Daily Sun

Villages Economy Roars Loud; Lifestyle Drives It

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Posted: Monday, September 25, 2017 10:01 am

Big growth news about The Villages emerged from the release last week of real gross domestic product for each of the U.S. metropolitan statistical areas.

The Villages MSA ranked 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: The reason why emerged a few days earlier in the annual update to the American Community Survey.

It painted a compelling picture that Villagers live longer and better because of The Villages active adult lifestyle that offers the largest aggregation of recreational amenities in the nation.

Not only did The Villages have the highest marital rate in the country in 2016, but once again it ranked as the community with the nation’s oldest population.

Also: Construction in and around the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks, another contributor to GDP, could push the 2016 results even higher, considering a new wrinkle in The Villages’ strategic growth plan.

Members of the Wildwood City Commission heard on first reading at its Sept. 18 meeting an application for voluntary annexation of 41 parcels totaling 2,014 acres south of State Road 44 that either belongs to The Villages or with it serving as contract agent. That property runs roughly parallel to each side of Florida’s Turnpike from points east of U.S. Highway 301.

Annexation of the property just south of the turnpike and east of U.S. 301 would provide a direct link not only to Southern Oaks Phase III, at the northwest section of county roads 468 and 501, but also via golf cart tunnel access to the villages of Fenney and McClure.

Properties proposed for annexation north of the turnpike would link the Southern Oaks property that runs northwest by southeast along the turnpike to an extent that it would ultimately provide access to the 2,000 acres that The Villages currently has under contract with the city of Leesburg in Lake County.

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 that The Villages wants the city to annex. The first phase could include an imaging medical practice with enough land still available sometime in the future for a golf cart-accessible hospital.

Also: The timing of the CFH expansion becomes more significant as The Villages continues development in the area of the age-restricted communities of Fenney and Southern Oaks. For instance, utility infrastructure work and mass grading continues at a rapid pace in the eastern section of Fenney at the southwest intersection of county roads 468 and 501. And, preliminary site work started at the Village of McClure, another age-restricted community that contains 491 acres at the southeast corner of county roads 468 and 501.

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. While it does not list precise numbers, 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: Hot new growth information emerged recently out of Buffalo Ridge Plaza. The Villages Commercial Development team returned from an international retail conference with a phenomenal report. “We met with more than a half a dozen tenants talking about developing new concepts there,” said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development. Be patient, though, since Renick and his team won’t disclose details until leases are signed.

Also: The catalyst for this new interest in Buffalo Ridge is the new development already taking place at this regional retail center. And give a big part of the credit to Metro Diner and PetSmart for their investment in the retail center. Metro Diner, which will feature classic American dishes, announced plans for a rescheduled 10:30 a.m. Oct. 3 ribbon-cutting ceremony at its first restaurant in The Villages, between McDonald’s and Arby’s just off County Road 466. Just a few blocks east, work at lintel-tie beam stage continues at the PetSmart retail store and pet hotel under construction next to Bealls, HomeGoods and Marshalls.

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, Sarasota, Colony Professional Plaza, Lake Deaton, Brownwood and Buffalo Ridge.

Also: Continued population 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. Publix recently reached the lintel-tie beam phase of block wall work in quick fashion at its Spanish Plaines location.

Also: Walmart Stores now anticipates an Oct. 4 opening of its Neighborhood Market grocery store at Sarasota Plaza adjacent to Colony Professional Plaza. Last week, the store received its certificate of occupancy.

 

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.