Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Perkins replacement among highlights of Developer’s annual address

Announcements of a hotel and restaurant near Brownwood and another land purchase highlighted Wednesday night’s “Evening with the Developer” at The Sharon.

The event also featured information about upcoming entertainment at The Sharon and The Sharon Studio Theater at Tierra del Sol as well as reports on home sales, new stores, the Village of Fenney and recent land acquisitions.

Repeating his talk show format from last year, Developer Mark Morse acted as host, inviting family members on stage to discuss the areas they supervise.

“I’ve got the same suit on (as last year),” he joked during a brief monologue to start the show. “I was going to return it.”

Morse touted the new The Enrichment Academy, which replaces the defunct Lifelong Learning College, and soon will be offering classes. He did not mention The Villages Health, which stopped accepting patients with Original Medicare in January.

Mark Morse, right, chats with family members .
Mark Morse, right, chats with family members.

With 150 rooms and a restaurant designed by chef Wolfgang Puck, the Brownwood Hotel & Spa will be next to the specialty clinic under construction north of the Grand Traverse shopping center. It will reserve a few rooms for clinic patients and will have a 10,000-square-foot conference center and banquet room. The Villages has partnered with Amway Hotels of Grand Rapids, Mich., for the hotel’s design and construction.

The Villages has partnered with Anchor Health Properties to build the Brownwood Center for Advanced Medicine, the specialty clinic.

Morse said a land purchase completed Wednesday adds acreage south of State Road 44 near Buena Vista Boulevard to the Villages of Southern Oaks purchase.

He did not offer details about the acreage but, according to a map, the land is in the same area as the Cresswind Wildwood Planned Development, a proposed 700 home and villa age-restricted development on 359 acres, The Cresswood project was on Monday’s Wildwood City Commission agenda, but postponed to June 12.

That property is in addition to an $11.9-million land deal in Leesburg approved Monday night that will accommodate 4,500 homes. In January, The Villages announced the purchase of 8,000 acres along the Florida Turnpike where 14,000 homes can be built.

Morse said the Village of Fenney along County Road 468 about four miles south of State Road 44 is the catalyst for the other projects.

“It turns out (the Village of Fenney) won’t be an after-thought, it was the first thought,” he said.

Golf cart tunnels and a golf cart bridge over State Road 44 will connect the new areas with the rest of The Villages, Morse said.

At Fenney, a recreation center will open next month that features up to 150 nature paintings by local artists said Jennifer Parr, The Villages sales director. The Red Fox and Gray Fox executive golf courses will open this fall.

Throughout The Villages, more than 4,000 homes were sold last year by The Villages Real Estate, including 2,159 pre-owned homes. Sixty homes have been sold in Fenney.

About 1,100 new homes are for sale, including 500 in the Village of Pine Ridge in Fruitland Park, 345 between County Road 466A and SR 44 and 245 in new villas at the north end. Seven five-acre ranches west of the Village of Chatham will be available at the end of the month.

Harper Boone reported that 200 new homes have been built to replace older homes on the Historic Side of The Villages. 

Mark Morse hosted "An Evening with the Developer" at the Sharon.
Mark Morse hosted “An Evening with the Developer” at the Sharon.

New businesses will include Metro Diner, which is replacing the former Perkins Restaurant on County Road 466, and Shooter’s World near Brownwood, which will feature a shooting range, gun sales and training. A Cody’s Roadhouse is opening in the Mulberry area on the north side and the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Center across from Colony Plaza is expected to open this fall.

The Villages signed 42 new business leases and 45 business lease renewals over the past year, Morse’s daughter Kelsea Manley reported. The community’s 7 million square feet of retail space is 97 percent occupied, she said.

Whitney Morse provided an overview of the next year’s shows at The Sharon and The Sharon Studio Theater at Tierra del Sol. About 85,000 tickets were sold for The Sharon’s 124 shows and 51 performances were sold out. At Tierra del Sol, 11,000 tickets were sold for 112 performances.

Broadway-type shows at The Sharon next year will include “Dirty Dancing,” “Cabaret,” “A Chorus Line” and “Jersey Boys.” Other performances include Ben Vereen, Bernadette Peters, Clint Black, photographer Ethan Russell, Body Traffic dance troupe, Helsingborg Orchestra of Sweden, The Villages Philharmonic Orchestra and Moscow Ballet.

Next year’s offerings at Tierra del Sol include “Bad Jews,” “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” “Company,” “Red” and an August musical production.

Whitney Morse said she has read 150 plays to decide what to put on the studio theater’s schedule.