Housing in Florida
Population at The Villages rose 4.6% last year to just under 95,000.
Growth at The Villages is showing no sign of letting up. The 26,000-acre retirement community in Sumter, Lake and Marion counties was among the top three fastest-growing “micropolitan” areas in the country last year, with 4,336 more residents, up 4.6% and pushing the total population to 94,261, according to the latest Census figures. Only the oil and gas boomtown of Williston, N.D., grew faster in percentage terms, from a far smaller base. In 2007, before the energy boom, The Villages ranked No. 1 nationwide.
But population growth is only half the story. The Villages is beginning work on Brownwood Paddock Square, promoting it as “the newest urban downtown” and a “third location where entertainment, dining and shopping draw consumers from the regional market.”
Market Square at Lake Sumter Landing already comprises over 550,000 square feet of restaurants, retail and office space, and Spanish Springs Town Square has 375,455 square feet of retail and hotel space. Other shopping centers, such as Spanish Plaines and Mulberry Grove Plaza, are both anchored by Publix and boast more than 92,000 square feet of space. When The Villages is built out at about 105,000 residents planned for 2017, it’s expected to have almost 3 million square feet of retail.
While residential areas of The Villages are gated and off-limits to the public, the shopping, dining and entertainment areas are open and increasingly attract customers from throughout the region.
In recent years, the retirement community has become a favorite of Republican candidates, and now that the Legislature, with the support of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, has eased development restrictions, The Villages could grow even faster.