Year of grand openings offers much to celebrate

Villages residents crossed the Chitty Chatty Bridge for the first time in October.

January

The opening of the UF Health The Villages Hospital Freestanding Emergency Room came weeks after The Villages Regional Hospital and Leesburg Regional Medical Center officially merged into the UF Health network Jan. 1. Those facilities were renamed UF Health The Villages and UF Health Leesburg hospitals. The new ER, just south of Brownwood Paddock Square, has 16 beds, including two trauma bays, and provides services such as diagnostic imaging.

February

A 95-foot ladder truck and additional bunks for more firefighters are among the highlights at the Villages Public Safety Department’s newly renovated Station 40. The station’s new three-vehicle bay houses the 95-foot tower truck, a rescue vehicle and a fire engine. The station, located on County Road 466 near The Villages Charter School campus, also speeds the fire department’s response time.

March

The Brownwood Hotel & Spa, designed in a “cowboy chic” motif, opened with 151 guest rooms, including seven suites; a full-service spa; a ballroom and meeting space for events of all sizes; a heated outdoor pool and several dining options that include a Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar and Chuck’s Wagon food truck. The hotel’s sister property, the Waterfront Inn, located on Lake Sumter, completed an extensive renovation of all 118 guest rooms.

May

The Center for Advanced Healthcare, a 240,000-square-foot outpatient medical facility, is the completion of a vision to bring specialty medical providers together in one location, creating a destination to serve a variety of health care needs. It is home to The Villages Health Specialty Care Center, as well as an array of providers offering imaging, oncology, ophthalmology, rehabilitation and pharmacy, among other medical services.

June

Recreation opportunities south of State Road 44 continued to grow with the opening of several facilities. Water Lily Recreation Center and Chitty Chatty Recreation Area debuted June 26. Water Lily was the first of three Village recreation  centers to open in 2020, featuring a resort-style family pool, billiards, indoor meeting rooms, pickleball, shuffleboard, bocce, corn toss, a picnic pavilion and outdoor fitness equipment. Bradford and Hawkins recreation areas opened in August and November, respectively.

July

Residents began moving into the Lofts at Brownwood as part of a successful summer launch. The community of apartment-style homes, a short walk from Brownwood Paddock Square, offers an alternative to residents who want to downsize but don’t yet have a need to move into independent living communities. Residents also enjoy onsite amenities at Trillium Recreation Center — open to all Villagers — that include a resort-style family pool; outdoor fireplace; outdoor kitchen with two gas grills; a social room with indoor kitchen space, seating area and flat-screen televisions; and a game room.

October

The Chitty Chatty Bridge provided the first gateway across State Road 44 when it opened to residents. The bridge is one of four planned across SR 44 and Florida’s Turnpike that are part of The Villages’ connectivity plan to provide golf-cart access to amenities, businesses and services throughout the entire community. The Chitty Chatty Bridge, near Rohan Recreation Center, connects Lake Deaton Plaza, Brownwood Paddock Square, and all areas north of State Road 44 to the villages of Chitty Chatty, Bradford and Hawkins, as well as other developing villages.

December

The Villages hit a major milestone with the opening of its 100th recreation facility, Aviary Recreation Center, on Dec. 17. The recreation center features a theme designed around birds, inspired by a nearby eagle preserve.

The opening of the Brownwood Bridge on Dec. 23 brings the vision of linking all residents to shopping, amenities and services Villages-wide one step closer to reality. Brownwood Bridge connects Brownwood Paddock Square and areas north of State Road 44 to future villages of Richmond and St. John south of the highway.

COMING IN 2021

Amenities

Sawgrass Grove will bring many favorite activities to one location. It will be home to Sawgrass Market, which is being designed to feel like an indoor farmers market, and McGrady’s Restaurant & Pub. Ezell Recreation Complex will be designed throughout to pay tribute to golf. The complex will include the 18-hole Clifton Cove Putting Course showcase and a new nine-court pickleball center.

Services

Magnolia Plaza will be the first neighborhood retail center south of State Road 44. Located at the intersection of Warm Springs Avenue and Marsh Bend Trail, Magnolia Plaza is golf-cart accessible and will be home to shopping, dining, banking, personal care, medical and dental services. Publix will anchor the plaza and will be joined by The Villages Golf Cars, Citizens First Bank, Magnolia Plaza Dental, Lunar Nails, Safe Ship, Salon Jaylee, Roberto’s Flooring, Reveille Coffeehouse Cafe, Willie Jewell’s Bar-B-Q and China Chef with more to be announced.

Connectivity

The Water Lily Bridge across Florida’s Turnpike is expected to open in early 2021 to provide full golf-cart connectivity from one end of The Villages to the other. A second turnpike bridge, called the Southern Oaks Bridge, is in approval stages and will connect residents to future amenities east of the Turnpike and south of Warm Springs Avenue. It will be built south of the Okahumpka Service Plaza and will accommodate vehicular traffic as well as golf carts.

Read this story and many others in Friday’s edition of the Daily Sun.