What’s Next for The Villages south Of State Road 44?

Visitors and residents to Fenney Springs Nature Trail get to meander around the waters of a natural spring and view the wildlife.

The Village of Fenney is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to development underway in The Villages south of State Road 44.

Over the next two years, new residents and amenities are set to start moving into seven new villages ­— the villages of DeSoto, McClure, Linden, Monarch Grove, Marsh Bend, De Luna and Bradford. To go along with that, commercial and service-related development also will be increasing in the corridor.

Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold said the new development will continue to strengthen the county’s economy, create more jobs and provide additional amenities for residents living both inside and outside The Villages.

“It was to our great excitement that The Villages made the announcement first for the Village of Fenney and then again for all the additional expansion in the area,” Arnold said. “Together that’s brought renewed hope for our construction-based industries here in Sumter County.”

Amenities

The latest new amenity in The Villages south of State Road 44 is scheduled to open April 26. Dudley Canine Park & Archery Range in the Village of DeSoto will be only the second archery range in all of The Villages and the only dog park south of State Road 44.

John Rohan, director of recreation and executive golf for the Village Community Development Districts, encouraged residents to buckle in, because the ride is just beginning.

“The future is bright and continues to shine bright, not only in recreation and parks, but so many areas in our hometown,” he said.

Additional amenity openings pepper the remainder of the calendar year.

Willow Tree Recreation Area is slated to open this summer. Fall is expected to bring the openings of the Loblolly & Longleaf executive golf courses and River Bend Recreation Area. And in the winter, Swallowtail Recreation Area is set to make its debut.

Commercial

Across The Villages, more than 450,000 square feet of commercial space is slated for construction this year, said Scott Renick, director of commercial development for The Villages.

Renick said the demand for such development shows no sign of slowing down.

“If anything, the trend is that we’re still growing across all business types, from restaurants and apparel to services and health care,” he said.

Several projects near Brownwood Paddock Square factor into that number, including 200,000 square feet dedicated to health care and 145,000 square feet for a hotel, both near Brownwood Paddock Square.

One of the most exciting projects on the horizon this year, Renick said, is a shooting range and store just outside of Brownwood. Shooters World alone will bring 52,000 square feet of retail online.

The facility will be “unlike anything else in the community,” Renick said.

Plans released by The Villages in March also show a new retail plaza on the north side of County Road 468 at County Road 501.

When it opens in fall 2019, Magnolia Plaza is set to include a grocer and other banking and shopping options. Future professional and health services also are planned just east of Florida’s Turnpike on Warm Springs Avenue, the new name of the majority of County Road 468.

Public safety

To keep up with the demands of an increasing population at the Southern end of The Villages, public safety agencies are beefing up their staffing in the area.

On Oct. 1, the District Public Safety Department is set to take full control of Fire Station 33 in Coleman, which the Sumter County Fire & EMS has been sharing with Public Safety since December 2016.

The station’s location, just outside Fenney, puts Public Safety in the right place to help the newest Villagers.

“The population is just going to continue to grow down there, and we’ll be there to meet it,” Public Safety Fire Chief Edmund Cain said.

In Wildwood, which has annexed the newest villages, Police Chief Paul Valentino said a new police headquarters is in the works to help the department meet increasing demands.

“Wildwood has grown exceptionally and that new headquarters is going to help prepare us for more of that growth,” Valentino said.

City Manager Jason McHugh said the city commission is likely to vote soon to approve the new station, which would be built near the intersection of U.S. Highway 301 and west County Road 462.

Sarah Wilson is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5401, or sarah.wilson@thevillagesmedia.com.