New town center to add lifestyle options

The Sawgrass Grove area, shown here in the Village of St. Catherine, along with a new lifestyle center to be known as Eastport, that blends recreation, dining, shopping and more in an innovative concept, headline The Villages’ latest development plans.

A new town center, known as Eastport, will bring together a bit of everything that makes up The Villages lifestyle. With Eastport, the Developer plans to combine a town center concept with a regional recreation complex, golf, entertainment, shopping and dining all blended together in one location. Its future development will join Sawgrass Grove in multiplying the mix of new dining, entertainment, recreation and golf within The Villages. Sawgrass Grove opens later this year in the Village of St. Catherine.

The Eastport town center will be north of Central Parkway, formerly County Road 470, and east of Marsh Bend Trail, in Sumter County.

One of the highlights of the area will be Central Lake that will be available for dragon boating and other water activities.

The names Eastport and Central Lake were chosen to pay tribute to the Morse family roots in Antrim County, Michigan.

The recreation complex will have an indoor gymnasium with 20-foot high ceilings, the first of its kind in The Villages.

It will also be home to a softball complex, a dog park, a multipurpose field, a sports pool, a pond for remote-control boats, and many other favorites such as pickleball, platform tennis, tennis, beach tennis, sand volleyball, shuffleboard and bocce.

The town square element will include a waterfront stage for concerts and entertainment and a commercial district with shopping and dining.

Golf will be well represented with a teaching academy and driving range from The Villages Golf & Tennis and a 9-hole executive golf course.  

Eastport will be an area that will offer a little bit of everything Villagers love, said Gary Mark, director of design for The Villages.

“The reason why we used the term lifestyle center is because we’re trying to design a place that showcases all of The Villages lifestyle, which is more than just recreation and sports,” he said. “It will have aspects of a town square, it will have shopping and dining. We’re trying to cater everything toward the lifestyle we’ve created here.”

The Community Support District also has a new official name - Middleton by The Villages. This family community will feature homes, an expansion of The Villages Charter School and a new shopping and dining area, all geared for those who work in The Villages and their families. Middleton by The Villages would fall outside The Villages boundaries, but in close proximity.

Progress continues at the Sawgrass Grove area, which is further along in the construction process.

Finishing touches are underway inside Ezell Recreation Complex, which will have a golf theme throughout.

The Southern Oaks Championship Golf Course and the Clifton Cove Putting Course are benefiting from the summertime rain and sun as the greens and fairways continue to grow in.

Three new dining options are coming to Sawgrass Market - Willy’s Original, with a menu featuring smash-burgers, sandwiches and salads; Frenchy’s Wood-Fired, with a unique twist on pizza; and Little Fin Seafood Shack, offering a casual approach to seafood.

All three restaurants will be operated by owner Phillipe Villain and general manager Roland Rutjens, who are also behind The Back Porch restaurant coming soon to Mulberry Grove Plaza.

The Villages is also developing two new retail centers at Warm Springs Avenue and U.S. Highway 301. Warm Springs Plaza and Fenney Professional Plaza will bring add options for professional, shopping and dining services.

 Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or