Villages Developer Mark Morse abandoned the show-biz glitz of the previous two years in favor of a low-key talk format at the annual “Evening with the Developer” presentation at The Sharon on Wednesday night.
The presentation featured less news than the dramatic projects announced last year. Morse scaled it back to focus on four areas and fit it into about an hour and 15 minutes.
A year ago, the Village of Fenney was new and Morse talked about building thousands of homes between that neighborhood and State Road 44. He also announced a hotel, restaurant and specialty medical building near Brownwood.
This year, those projects are continuing, but announcements of new projects were sparse.
The developer honored Recreation Director John Rohan for 25 years of working in The Villages. And Rohan announced that a second wood shop will be opened near the Eisenhower Recreation Center.
“Demand is so high there right now,” Morse said.
Rohan said the Enrichment Academy, which replaced the Lifelong Learning College, soon will launch a speaker series.
“We will continue to grow that program just like we do with other programs,” Rohan said, adding that more instructors are needed.
A new dog park and archery range also opened recently. And Rohan is working on recreation centers for the new neighborhoods south of SR 44.
Operations Director Kelsea Manly said the seven-story hotel under construction near Brownwood will have 151 rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space on the first floor. She also said the 200,000-square-foot specialty medical building next door, slated to open in 2020, will include Florida Cancer Specialists and Lake Medical Imaging, as well as orthopedic and other services.
The program revealed that The Villages includes 8 million square feet of commercial, industrial and institutional space. And Villagers spent $307.9 million on groceries last year.
Those in attendance also learned that The Villages Grown Project, across from the Rohan Recreation Center, provides a place to grow vegetables that eventually will make their way to area restaurant tables. Using greenhouse techniques, the project will be able to grow the equivalent of 10 acres on one acre of land.
Harper Boone, manager of Villages real estate, reported that 2,193 new homes and 2,215 pre-owned homes were sold in the past year. The new homes include about 1,000 sold in new neighborhoods south of SR 44.
The number of homes sold was about the same as last year’s 4,000 homes and the 4,400 new and pre-owned homes sold in 2015-16.
Boone also said new floor plans have been developed for patio villas and 56 veranda homes have been sold. Veranda homes combine designer floor plans with courtyard villas.
The audience also learned that Villages home values rose 4.6 percent between March 2017 and March 2018.
Trey Arnett, who supervises Villages utilities, said 75 percent of the community’s water demand is met with alternative sources, such as storm water and reclaimed wastewater. He said retention ponds and golf courses prevented flooding of homes by successfully storing the water from Hurricane Irma last September.
The Villages annual resident survey has ended. Instead, TheVillages.com web site will allow residents to offer opinions and complaints year-round, said Ryan McCabe, marketing director.
Instead of showing pictures of grandchildren as in previous years, Morse used the time to praise The Villages Charter School and read a list of graduates who now work for The Villages.
At the presentation’s conclusion, Morse grew emotional as he discussed his commitment to the community.
“I hope you are as proud of this place as we are,” he said. “I think the pride is as deep as the pride in Texas.”
Afterward, Morse and Rohan stood by the door to shake hands and chat with people as they left the building.