Displays of growth last week in The Villages attracted hundreds if not thousands of local residents.
Staff at The Villages Commercial Property Management Division were kept busy, transporting the big golden scissors to four ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
The activities started at 9:30 a.m. Monday with 441 Urgent Care officially opening its new clinic at 340 Heald Way, Suite 208, at Colony Professional Plaza. It’s the third urgent care center the local owners operate in The Villages, with the others at Lake Sumter Landing and Buffalo Ridge Plaza.
At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, the big scissors traveled to Metro Diner, 4110 Wedgewood Lane, at Buffalo Ridge Plaza. The restaurant with American-style fare is gaining popularity very quickly.
The next day, at 7:30 a.m., Walmart Stores officially opened its Neighborhood Market at 270 Heald Way at Sarasota Plaza. Throughout the day, it attracted thousands of customers interested in its inventory and services.
At 4 o’clock that afternoon, store owner Dana Klein cut the ribbon to officially open her DanaTyler Inspired Travel Jewelry at 970 Old Mill Run at Lake Sumter Landing. It serves those Villagers who want to travel with stylish fashion jewelry instead of their heirlooms.
Although not planned to coincide, these ribbon-cutting events also represent a microcosm of The Villages economy, as the Commercial Development Division continues to recruit a balanced mix of national, state, regional and mom-and-pop tenants to the community.
Also: Daily Sun readers learned Sunday about another big reason the community continues to grow at such a rapid pace. The Villages leads the state in home value recovery from the Great Recession. While it didn’t lose too much value during the national residential real estate collapse, the community has returned to a normal level of home values, according to Irvine, California-based CoreLogic, a real estate data and analytics company. The Villages metropolitan statistical area also is the only market in Florida now neither undervalued nor overvalued.
Also: The Villages revitalization plan for La Plaza Grande North earned unanimous support Oct. 2 from the Lady Lake Town Commission during a first reading of the application to demolish five buildings, replace them with three new buildings, add more parking space than land development codes require and improve the traffic flow. Second and final reading will happen at the Oct. 16 commission meeting.
Also: Speaking of Metro Diner, it’s the latest eatery to join about 130 restaurant sites now in The Villages. Over the next six months to a year, several more will push that number even higher. Restaurants under construction include Fujiyama Japanese steakhouse at Pinellas Plaza and Cody’s Original Roadhouse at Mulberry Grove Plaza, with Habaneros Mexican Grill and the Culvers Midwestern-style eateries in the planning stage at Southern Trace Plaza.
Also: Population growth accounts for all this continuing growth in the retail, restaurant and service industries. For example, 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: That population growth accounts for the commercial development taking place in nearly every one of The Villages retail centers, including Spanish Plaines, site of the Publix revitalization project; Colony Plaza, site of a developing Expedia CruiseShipCenters; Lake Deaton, where Clark’s Pump-n-Shop Marathon station is moving quickly toward an opening; and Brownwood, where the Brownwood Care Center is finished and about to open.
Also: Leesburg’s pending sale of 2,631 acres to The Villages continues to move through the due-diligence process. But the deal looks pretty good, with the city’s Planning Commission recently approving applications for a comprehensive plan text amendment and a large-scale comprehensive plan for what will be known as the Village of West Lake, east of Florida’s Turnpike and north and south of County Road 470.
Also: Big numbers rule in Wildwood, too, with the City Commission recently approving the voluntary annexation of 2,014 acres that The Villages either owns or has contracts to purchase on the north and south side of the turnpike and points east of U.S. Highway 301. Those properties eventually will link with the villages of Southern Oaks, Fenney and McClure and provide a direct route to West Lake.
Also: That annexation complements newly disclosed 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. Central Florida Health, parent of The Villages Regional Hospital and Leesburg Regional Medical Center, also disclosed it is considering long-term plans for a golf cart-accessible hospital at that site.
Also: Site planning continues on the recently announced Southern Oaks Phase III project. At about 868 acres, Phase III extends roughly from the county roads 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 a year-over-year 6 percent gain in gross domestic product, 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.
David Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 9066, or firstname.lastname@example.org.