A large mixed-use development featuring a medical city with a new hospital as its crown jewel is headed for Lake County, commissioners announced Tuesday in approving economic incentives to lure it there.

Lake Economic Development Director Brandon Matulka labeled it as a huge win for the county.

“This agreement is huge for the local economy and a strong endorsement of the economic development strategy that we’ve put in place for Lake County,” Matulka said. “The Economic Development Grant program was created specifically to entice projects like this to locate in Lake County, and in this highly competitive environment for high-paying jobs and capital investment, communities must be aggressive to land projects of this magnitude. This project locating in Lake County sends a strong signal that we are open for business. We’re strategically located, our taxes and fees are low and our process is streamlined and business friendly.”  

The proposed UF Hospital originally was to be located in Sumter County. 

“Plans change,” said Robert Chandler IV, director of development for The Villages. “We’re happy to be working with Lake County on bringing new health care services to our community.”

The $100 million-plus development, slated to break ground on 241 acres around the end of the year, is expected to create hundreds of high-wage jobs in science, medicine and research.

The "wellness center" property borders the existing County Road 470 to the south, and Florida's Turnpike to the east. The designated area has acres in both Lake and Sumter counties.

The Villages also previously announced an urban core, similar to a town center, that is desired somewhere in proximity to the wellness village that would offer shopping, dining and commercial services. Previous artist renderings show this commercial hub near the Lake-Sumter county line.

Lake County has made job creation a top economic priority though its Developers Grant Award, a program that increases economic activity in targeted businesses such as health care.

Through this program, The Villages will be paid a percentage of property taxes collected in connection with the project at five, 10 and 15-year milestones.

Lake County Commissioner Josh Blake was thrilled the county was able to have The Villages expand its presence.

“This is a great day for Lake County and it demonstrates that the formula works,” Blake said. “When government is “business friendly”, when it simplifies the permitting process and is mindful of the negative impact of overregulation, high taxes and high fees, then the private sector can prosper, creating and retaining good jobs. All the taxpayers in the county will reap the benefit of a more vibrant local economy with an expanded tax base.”

Blake said the hospital was highly coveted.

“In addition to all that, getting the new medical village is a huge win,” Blake said. “Having that new regional hospital located in Lake County was very important to us and we’re delighted that we could make that happen.”

Specialty Editor Bill Zimmerman contributed to this report. Managing Editor Curt Hills can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5287, or curt.hills@thevillagesmedia.com.