Apartment-style living: Not a new concept here

The Lofts at Brownwood welcomed the first residents to its apartment-style living offerings earlier this year.  Trillium Recreation Center at The Lofts is open to all Villagers.

As The Villages seeks approval to expand apartment-style living, planners say the housing option is not a new concept in the community. Nor is the desire to live as close as possible to one of the town squares. The Sumter County Board of Commissioners will tomorrow hear a first reading on the proposal for locations within Lake Sumter Landing Market Square and the site of the former Hacienda Hills Country Club. A separate request to add a few apartment homes to the second stories of four buildings at Spanish Springs Town Square is scheduled to go before Lady Lake commissioners next month. They join the successful summer launch of The Lofts at Brownwood, a short walk from Brownwood Paddock Square. “Being close to the town centers, like The Lofts at Brownwood, is very attractive,” said Frank Calascione, Sumter County’s economic development director. “What we’re seeing are empty nesters who want that lifestyle close to retail, restaurants and other amenities.”

Sumter County Special Master Zachary Broome recommended approval of the plans for properties within the county during a planing and zoning meeting on Sept. 21.

At that meeting, Villages Vice President Marty Dzuro outlined plans for new features that would accompany apartment homes at the site of the former Hacienda Hills Country Club.

“It’s going to allow us to provide modern amenities like a resort-style pool, sports courts, walking trails and a new restaurant available to all residents,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for The Villages to make sure we’re supporting The Villages lifestyle.”

The championship golf course at Hacienda Hills will remain.

Calascione noted a 2018 market analysis showed a need in Sumter County for more multifamily options as demand for senior housing is expected to rise during the next 20 years.

The Villages’ plans for apartment homes is “filling the demand that the report outlined,” he said.

Previously, residents who wanted to downsize to an apartment-style home had the option to move into independent living communities.

Freedom Pointe at The Villages introduced apartment-style living to the community when it opened in 2009. Elan Buena Vista and Sumter Grand have since followed.

As is the case at The Lofts at Brownwood, the majority of Freedom Pointe residents are former Villagers who didn’t want to leave the community as their living needs changed, said Bobbi Sarmiento, sales and marketing director at Freedom Pointe.

“Our residents love the fact that they no longer have to worry about doing yard work, maintenance or housework,” Sarmiento said. “It’s a worry-free lifestyle that comes with many amenities on the campus. To top it off, they have all the benefits that The Villages has to offer as well.”

The Lofts aren’t the only residential options currently available near the town squares.

The first support of residential living for Spanish Springs came in 1998 with the opening of Villas of Spanish Springs.

And Lakeshore Cottages and Creekside Landing offer the opportunity to live adjacent to Lake Sumter Landing Market Square.

Apartment homes in some existing second-story buildings will “further animate the Spanish Springs downtown,” said Ryan McCabe, assistant director of operations for The Villages.

“Spanish Springs is a key part of our community, and we are working to ensure it stays healthy and filled with the services and activities residents enjoy,” he said. “The presence of resident living right there would certainly be a plus for the restaurants and shop owners who do such a great job serving our community. We are committed to keeping Spanish Springs and all of our town centers active areas that serve as focal points for residents.”

Apartment-style living offers an opportunity to continue enjoying The Villages with a more carefree home life, McCabe said.

“We’ve always had residents who love the lifestyle of the community and want a maintenance-free living option,” he said. “This allows a Villager to remain in their adopted hometown while staying close to friends and activities they enjoy.”

Brittany Fugate, leasing leader for The Villages, said That has definitely been the case for The Lofts at Brownwood.

“Our residents have found tremendous relief in no longer having to worry about scheduling home maintenance, saving for home repairs, or finding a house sitter while they travel,” she said. “Having the opportunity to live The Villages lifestyle in the most carefree way yet is proving to be quite the attraction.”

Laura Kozlowski loves the atmosphere of The Lofts, it’s three-minute walk to Brownwood and golf cart access to entertainment, dining, shopping and other amenities communitywide.

“It’s a little more of a city lifestyle,” she said. “When there is music and dancing on the square, you can walk over. Plus there are the restaurants and stores right there.”

Residents transitioning to apartment-style living in The Villages participate in the amenity fees and privileges they previously enjoyed throughout the community.

Trillium Recreation Center at The Lofts already is attracting use by all Villagers, she said, noting that more visitors to the square are stopping by to take a dip in the pool. And a volleyball group recently stopped in for a gathering at the outdoor kitchen that features two grills.

McCabe said that any future sites for apartment-style living in The Villages will preserve the character of existing neighborhoods.

“It will be a great fit for that location, very Villages-esque in its look and feel, while creating an additional way for retirees to enjoy America’s Friendliest Hometown,” he said.

Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or keith.pearlman@thevillagesmedia.com.