The expanding world of amenities around Brownwood Paddock Square is about to take a huge leap forward. The Villages has announced plans to build four additional commercial buildings at the community’s third town center — the next phase of transforming the area into a regional attraction. The new buildings, whose tenants have not yet been named, join numerous projects currently underway in the area: Magnolia Plaza, The Villages 10th neighborhood retail plaza; the community’s second woodworking shop; The Lofts at Brownwood, a 265-unit, age-restricted, apartment-style community; The Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood, a multispecialty medical center and adjoining Brownwood Hotel & Spa; new connectivity in the form of a golf cart bridge being built across State Road 44; and the extensions of Meggison Road and Buena Vista Boulevard across State Road 44.
“This expansion is a terrific thing,” said Fred Briggs, president of The Villages Homeowners Advocates. “More and more as The Villages expands south, Brownwood almost becomes the physical center of The Villages. It’s continuing to grow into one of the most exciting places to visit.”
Deals are in the works for the little business space still vacant, said Scott Renick, The Villages director of commercial development.
One new building will be built next to Cody’s Original Roadhouse, he said. The other three will be built on Brownwood Boulevard next to the Van Heusen apparel store and east of TooJay’s Deli.
“We decided to create more inventory to bring new things to Brownwood,” he said.
Residents will see some surprising design features in these four new buildings, said The Villages’ architect, Ed Plaster, president of Ocala’s KP Studio Architect.
“We’re going to model one of the buildings after a courthouse,” he said. “So, we’re starting to look at ideas about what is the essence of a courthouse in a community.”
The Old Florida theme at the square inspired another building modeled after a train station, he said.
“We may even put some old tracks down on the streetscape, so that residents or shoppers can actually tie the theme with what the history was in that area as a train station,” he added.
Another building will be designed as an ice house, reminiscent of days when ice production was essential, Plaster said.
“We’re trying to mix up some of the style, so that stays fresh and looks like a town that was built over time; that there were different shopkeepers, owners and building operators,” he said.
The fourth building will be designed as a saloon and boarding house with Victorian-era characteristics, Plaster said.
“We try to run the spectrum of architectural character and that helps us so that all the buildings don’t start looking the same,” he said. “It makes the setting more enjoyable.”
Many of the businesses shopping for space expressed the need to get ahead of next spring’s completion of The Lofts at Brownwood, as well as the eventual opening of the 280,000-square-foot medical center and the 150-room resort hotel, Renick said.
“The Lofts will have a huge impact,” he said. “It’s a great project that will provide a lot of conveniences for residents and will expose our Brownwood businesses to a new base of customers. With the medical center and hotel, and even the recent opening of Shooters World, there’s a lot of activity and a lot of energy around Brownwood.”
Businesses also are eyeing the new Magnolia Plaza, he said. The Villages engineering and design teams are working on the design of this grocery-anchored retail center.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of interest from folks who knew Magnolia Plaza was coming,” Renick said, though he said it was too soon to disclose prospective tenants.
“We’ll have a pretty full shopping center before we even come out of the ground with construction,” he said. “With the demand we’re seeing, it will fill as fast as any other of our retail centers, if not faster.”
All of the commercial activity ties into the excitement of connecting amenities communitywide through an expanding multimodal and roadway network that includes two bridges over SR 44 and two bridges over the Florida Turnpike.
Last week, the bridge contractor began assembling the free-span truss that will cross SR 44 just east of Buena Vista Boulevard. Pilings have been set on both sides of the highway in advance of cranes lifting the truss into place.
These bridges will become iconic features, said Richard Busche, senior vice president and project engineer at the firm of Kimley-Horn & Associates.
“Like much of what we do for The Villages, this bridge is unique and visionary,” Busche said. “There are few, if any, bridges like this one that will accommodate the number of golf carts we expect.”
Construction on the bridge comes as the Sumter County Commission reviews options on a proposed extension of Buena Vista Boulevard, said County Administrator Bradley Arnold.
Tentative plans would extend Buena Vista to a planned roundabout at Meggison Road, the Brownwood road that will cross SR 44 and run parallel along the turnpike to Warm Springs Avenue, he said.
“Each of the Buena Vista build alternatives are around 1 mile in length,” Arnold said.
Along with this commercial and connectivity activity, design plans are being finalized on a new resident amenity that emerged from a collaborative venture to enhance the lifestyle — the community’s second woodworking shop.
In October, the Sumter Landing Community Development District accepted a donation of 9.31 acres from The Villages, on behalf of the Woodworkers resident lifestyle club, adjacent to The Villages Public Safety Station 45 across from Eisenhower Recreation Center.
“We’re supplying the building, and the Developer is supplying the property,” said District Manager Richard Baier. “The Woodworkers board of directors have agreed to spend more than the $100,000 they originally pledged to equip the woodworking shop. They agreed to add up to another $50,000 for mechanized equipment.”
If all goes as planned, construction could begin before the end of the year, Baier said.
And one more nearby project also is moving full-speed ahead.
The Villages Grown garden-to-table farming operation at the southwest corner of SR 44 and Morse Boulevard expects the first planting to start sometime in April, with the first harvest coming as early as May.
The project’s executive director, Jennifer Waxman, said residents should expect to find The Villages Grown-branded entrees later this year, first, at restaurants in The Villages, with retail availability to follow.