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By: David R. Corder, Daily Sun Senior Writer | Jun 04, 2018

Decades Of Planning Creating New Wave Of Lifestyle Opportunities

Visionary planning has created opportunities for a new generation of Villagers with the Developer announcing the recent purchase of 5,600 acres south of State Road 44.

Wildwood city leaders clearly saw the potential 13 years ago when landowners independently petitioned the city commission to annex and allow mixed-use residential development on this acreage about three miles south of County Road 468, east of County Road 501 and north and south of County Road 470.

Elsewhere, development opportunities vanished in the subsequent years as the national recession stalled nearly all residential development except in The Villages.

It was only over the past two years or so that Gov. Rick Scott learned about the onerous state regulations that prohibited The Villages from expanding south of State Road 44.

Once Scott removed the impediments, the Developer acquired 8,000 acres south of SR 44 that includes the now-thriving community of the Village of Fenney and the developing villages of DeSoto, McClure, Southern Oaks, Linden and Monarch Grove.

When completed over the next two decades or so, the current entitlements on the 5,600 acres would permit up to 22,000 homes and up to 2.3 million square feet of commercial and 654,000 square feet of office and institutional uses with the same quality water, sewer and traffic infrastructure that has made The Villages one of the most well-planned and environmentally sound communities in the nation.

Also: The Developer’s vision for Southern Oaks includes recently released plans for The Villages Grown, one of the largest organic farming undertakings in the Southeast on 40 acres at the southwest corner of SR 44 and Morse Boulevard. The farm-to-table initiative, unveiled at the recent VHA “Evening with the Developer” event, will produce food with high-density nutrients while also reducing pollution and restoring health to land, water, animals and air. It will contain a controlled greenhouse environment that enables vertical farming, which uses less land area and water than conventional farming. Using this model, the development partnership anticipates that 1 acre would yield the equivalent of 10 acres in conventional agriculture. Growers there expect to produce around 60 crops, including lettuces, microgreens, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, for local restaurants and — eventually — some retail channels. In its first year, The Villages Grown could yield about 2 million pounds of produce free from the nutritional degradation of outside shipments.

Also: The Developer’s expansion the past few years into Fruitland Park just earned the city a historic designation. The community ranked as the fastest growing of all U.S. cities last year in percentage change out of all populations with at least 5,000 people, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed in a recent report. In 2017, the city added 2,259 new residents, or a 38.1 percent year-over-year increase, for a total population of 8,181, the report showed. The city accounted for around $139 million in new construction value, a 31.9 percent year-over-year increase. That amount exceeded all other new value any other Lake County city added in terms of numerical and percentage increases.

Also: In terms of population growth, all eyes now focus on Wildwood and not just because of the new residents coming to Fenney and soon to DeSoto. The Villages has plans to build 265 age-restricted multifamily units at the southeast corner of Powell Road and County Road 44A at Brownwood. Using the current Census multiplier of 1.8 people per unit, these leased units in the Lofts at Brownwood could become home to about 477 Villagers. It will include 275,000 square feet of residential space, 12,954 square feet of garage bays, a pool, pavilion, clubhouse, dog park and mail center.

Also: Foundation work is about to begin at the seven-story, 151-room Brownwood Hotel & Spa just west of Grand Traverse Plaza at Brownwood. When completed, the hotel will contain a medical spa, convention meeting space and a Wolfgang Puck-licensed restaurant. It will complement the adjoining, 200,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Healthcare, sort of a bedless hospital with a critical focus on multispecialty medical care through The Villages Health and its health care partners. The multispecialty practitioners in health care center will handle many of the inpatient procedures done currently at most hospitals, with patients choosing whether to recuperate in the adjoining hotel, at another rehabilitation facility or at home.

Also: Due-diligence work is now underway with the Amenity Authority Committee recently approving a $2 million sales agreement to purchase 18 acres and the existing fellowship hall from First Baptist Church of The Villages adjacent to the Village of Calumet Grove. The AAC envisions redevelopment of the property as a regional recreation area.

Also: Recreation activities in The Villages grew at a substantial pace through the first four months of the year. Residents formed 83 new lifestyle clubs in that period of time. Those clubs join nearly 2,800 existing resident-managed clubs.

David R. Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or