Thursday, October 22, 2020
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The Villages

Villagers look on with pride at Church on the Square transformation

Crews were applying paint to the exterior of the former Church on the Square.
Crews were applying paint to the exterior of the former Church on the Square.

The Sharon Morse Performing Arts Center construction site has become a real ‘look, see’ spot for Villagers returning from Sunday morning church services.

“We drive by here every Sunday,” Barbara Mortley said, “and so much has been done since last week, you don’t even recognize it. Looks like it’s close to being finished — on the outside at least — but maybe not yet. They’re building stadium seating and a big stage inside, so that will take more time. It’s going to be really beautiful — it’s very big, and it’s going to dwarf the rest of the square.”

“I’m still going to call it ‘Church on the Square,’ because that’s what it’s always been to me,” Mortley continued. “I’m really surprised to see those fellows working up there on a Sunday though.”

Indeed, painters in two ‘high reach’ bucket vehicles were hard at work — at the front of the building and on one side, spraying paint on the stucco and using rollers to smooth similarly colored paint on the wooden rafters. “The big crews don’t work on Sundays,” one of the painters said, “but we are small contractors, so we don’t mind. If there’s work, we’ll do it. It’s hot here on the ground, but up in the bucket, it’s not too bad — there’s a breeze.”

“The politicians,” he continued, “are always talking about creating jobs. The way I see it, The Villages may not get credit for it, but they have created many good jobs — in construction, restaurants, teachers, real estate people… like I said, a lot of good jobs. We’re happy to have this work.” Scaffolding covered the other side of the building, and in the back, construction crews were still erecting aluminum and steel during the past week.

John Conneely of the Village of Buttonwood also stopped to watch the action.

“Yes, it’s Sunday,” John said, “but if work is available these days, people will do it, seven days a week. The big concrete companies are closed on Sundays, so you won’t see concrete being poured, but painters, yes, they are working.” Originally from Brooklyn, New York, John owned a textiles manufacturing business in Paterson, New Jersey, before retiring to The Villages. “We were heartbroken when the Dodgers left Brooklyn,” John reminisced, “but then we became New York Yankee fans. I left Brooklyn right after I finished college. We came to Florida a lot and watched this place grow for more than ten years. We looked at the Plantation, we looked at Spruce Creek. They’re nice, but for us, this place has it all.”

“We go to a lot of good shows at the Savannah Center, like Fernando [Varela] this week, but it’s like sitting in a high school gymnasium. It’s not comfortable and the acoustics are terrible. This [Sharon Morse Performing Art’s Center] will be much better, I’m sure. We’re looking forward to it.”

Villagers continue to watch with awe as the former Church on the Square is transformed.
Villagers continue to watch with awe as the former Church on the Square is transformed.

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