Residents enjoy more of everything as the community expands.
Residents in the north end of The Villages had been clamoring for more recreation space before the population grew in the past year with the opening of two new villa complexes on County Road 42. Those residents’ prayers were answered when the First Baptist Church at The Villages sold its original fellowship hall and 18 acres to the Village Center Community Development District. The $2 million deal was three years in the making. The site at 7746 SE Highway 42 will be transformed into a new regional recreation center, including the renovated 9,000-square-foot building, a swimming pool, and “both specialty and unique indoor-outdoor recreation opportunities,” district documents state. Development will take many months, and the new campus will mirror the look of other Village Center sites, Recreation Director John Rohan said during the developer’s annual presentation to homeowners. “We’re going to Village-ize it,” John says. “It’s a great building, great set-up, great location.”
As The Villages develops its southern region, home sales are sizzling. In 2017, more than 1,000 homes were sold in the newest neighborhoods south of State Road 44, a sales representative says. Part of the attraction are new floor plans: patio villas offer easy, low-maintenance living and include three-bedrooms, a variety of new kitchen designs, and golf cart and two-car garages; and verandas combine the privacy of a courtyard with the comforts of a full-size home. Construction is not ending anytime soon. New villages continue to be unveiled south off County Road 468, and the developer also purchased another 5,600 acres in Wildwood, east of CR 501 and extending south of CR 470, to build more homes and businesses, according to Villages news announcements.
Hot town square
Rustic Brownwood Paddock Square continues to grow like a Western boomtown. A major medical center/hotel project announced in 2017 broke ground recently on State Road 44, west of Grand Traverse Plaza. It’s expected to be completed by spring 2020, Villages director of operations Kelsea Manly recently told residents. The Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood will be a state-of-the-art, six-story, 200,000-square-foot multi-specialty care clinic—essentially a “bedless hospital” serving all needs except emergency services.
Florida Cancer Specialists Chief Operating Officer Todd Schonherz, center, Gov. Rick Scott, fifth from right, and FCS physicians and staff members participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Center of Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood. (Photo by Florida Cancer Specialists)
The Brownwood Hotel & Spa will have a “luxury cowboy theme,” Kelsea says. The boutique hotel will include 151 guest rooms, a multipurpose courtyard, and 10,000 square feet of convention space on the first floor of the seven-story building. The 6,800-square-foot spa will offer both traditional and medical spa services, and a resort-style pool with indoor-outdoor bar, and the Wolfgang Puck Kitchen & Bar will have seating for 140 guests plus two private dining locations in the hotel.
Within Brownwood Square, a new two-story extension of buildings on Kiessel Road will house restaurants, retail shops, and Villages administration offices, a sales representative says.
New residents need new playgrounds, and The Villages’ plans for recreation centers are as ambitious as its housing blueprint. The most elaborate center is slated for the northwest corner of County Road 468 and Florida’s Turnpike. The Everglades Recreation Center & Softball Complex provides four softball fields, sports pool, basketball court, multipurpose soccer field, pickleball and platform tennis courts, shuffleboard and bocce courts, theater and crafts room, and areas to use radio-controlled cars and boats. The Everglades complex is expected to open in fall 2019, according to Villages news announcements.
Jon Secada: Warning: Villagers may be seen in the throes of passion after listening to the Cuban singer’s romantic sounds. Aug. 17, the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.
The Guess Who: Who would’ve guessed the Guess Who would still be touring? The Canadian rockers will bring along a “Laughing” “American Woman” with “These Eyes” who’s come “Undun.” Dec. 11, Savannah Center.
War: Since the funky band’s inception in 1969, fans have been making love, not war, to songs like “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” and “Low Rider.” Jan. 18, Savannah Center.
The Righteous Brothers: Despite the death of Bobby Hatfield, partner Bill Medley continues to tour with a new “brother,” Bucky Heard, presumably also righteous. Find out if they’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’. Jan. 20, the Sharon.
Don McLean: Enjoy classics like “American Pie” and “Vincent (Starry Starry Night),” just don’t ask the singer-songwriter to explain them. Feb. 1, the Sharon.
B.B. King Blues Band featuring Tito Jackson: The thrill may be gone, but the blues live on. The late legend’s band keeps the good times rolling with…Tito? Believe it. Feb. 16, Savannah Center.
Tony Orlando: It’s a new dawn for Tony, minus the Dawn of his 1970s heyday. If you want to see him, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ’Round the Ol’ Oak Tree” and “Knock Three Times.” Feb. 24-25, the Sharon.
Wayne Newton: For one night, “Mr. Las Vegas” will be “Mr. Villages.” Don’t forget the showgirls, Wayne. “Danke Schoen.” Feb. 26, the Sharon.
Blood, Sweat & Tears: …and aches and pains and gray hair…but the rock-jazz genre-crossing crusaders still are making fans so very happy. Featuring singer Bo Bice. March 1-2, Savannah Center.
The Beach Boys: Mike Love and Bruce Johnston’s version of the classic Cali surf band sails into town. March 3-4, the Sharon.
Hot future icon
The Villages brand will be on display for all to see when a large golf cart bridge with the community’s logo on the side is built over Florida’s Turnpike by early 2020. Two other new bridges spanning State Road 44, along with a network of tunnels, will connect the north and south sections of The Villages, developer Mark Morse recently told residents.
When is a sinkhole not a sinkhole? When it’s in The Villages. Administrators prefer to use the word “depression.” But they may want to think of an alternative because a lot of residents are depressed about the stunning number of sinkholes that have been reported each month this year. And these aren’t potholes; some appear to be 20-40 feet wide and 20-40 feet deep. Hurricane Irma’s severe weather and a rainy spring are to blame, some reports say, but maybe The Villages is getting so big it’s collapsing upon itself.
Starting this fall, The Villages returns to its farmland roots. Farm-to-table food items at local restaurants will be coming direct from The Villages Grown, a 40-acre organic farm in the works at the southwest corner of State Road 44 and County Road 468, opposite the Rohan Recreation Center. The “controlled agriculture” farm will grow crops such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers vertically in greenhouses; one acre will equal 10 acres of conventional agriculture. The approach uses less water, creates less pollution, and creates a more consistent product, Villages director of operations Kelsea Manly says.
Villagers love the natural environment of the community, but if man gives nature some assistance, that’s fine, too. Guided tours on manmade Lake Sumter proved so successful that the schedule has been extended at least through September. The Recreation & Parks Department conducts kayaking, fishing, and nature pontoon tours for guests who want to get closer to the wildlife and ecosystem on the lake.
Hot controversial figure
You either love him or hate him. Much like in Cooperstown, Pete Rose didn’t get into the big hall in The Villages for “4192 – An Evening with Pete Rose Live!” Baseball’s hit king and recidivist gambler stages a Broadway-style theatrical event Oct. 6 at Savannah Center, rather than at the Sharon. Of course, Pete’s well-known as a song-and-dance man in the tradition of Jimmy Cagney. The night revolves around storytelling, backed by multimedia visuals, from the man known as “Charlie Hustle” on the field and now “Hustling Buck” in his baseball banishment years. The show will go on, unless someone tells Pete that Vegas is posting odds on when the show will close.
Woodworking is so popular in The Villages that a land deal was made to add a second shop for the community. The chosen site is on Buena Vista Boulevard behind a public safety station and across from Eisenhower Recreation Center. The original Villages Woodshop, at 704 Oak St., provides hobbyists with all the machinery and tools necessary for all types of woodworking, and also host classes. But despite 8,000 square feet of space, the shop doesn’t have enough room to meet the woodworking demand, developer Mark Morse says. If he needs any help building the new structure, he knows who to call.
Hot for teacher
Villagers must have a thirst for knowledge. The Enrichment Academy, implemented in 2017 as a replacement for the shuttered Lifelong Learning College, has been an overwhelming success with 10,000 registrations and counting, according to Recreation Director John Rohan.
Sure, it’s a David vs. Goliath matchup, but Water Oak Country Club Estates is making a big push for expansion toward The Villages. Water Oak, adjacent to The Villages on U.S. Highway 441 in Lady Lake, is a 55-plus gated community that’s hoping to add 300 manufactured homes to its 1,100 current homes, news reports state. But apparently not everybody loves an underdog, as the plan is running into governmental obstacles. It’s like your team is playing the champ and can’t get any calls from the refs. C’mon, Water Oak!
Photo: Nicole Hamel
Hot new businesses
The Villages is always adding to its commercial clientele. Among the new establishments coming soon or recently opened are: Soft Surroundings and Stretch Zone at Spanish Springs Town Square; the Rustic Rose Fashion Boutique, Bluefin Grill & Bar, and Babette’s Furniture at Brownwood Paddock Square; Paradise Nails & Spa at Sarasota Plaza; and Shooter’s World at Powell Road and County Road 44A next to Brownwood. Source: The Villages commercial property management