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The Villages planning $100M expansion into Leesburg

The future wellness center lies on 240 acres in the city of Leesburg that was rezoned for Age Restricted Development in 2018.
The future wellness center lies on 240 acres in the city of Leesburg that was rezoned for Age Restricted Development in 2018. (City of Leesburg)

Lake County officials approved an economic incentives package for a $100 million mixed-use district by The Villages Development Company in the city of Leesburg. The new “wellness village” will have an emphasis in the healthcare industry and includes the construction of a regional hospital.

The Villages project is located on 435 acres at the intersection of Florida’s Turnpike and County Road 470. The project straddles the Lake County-Sumter County line with approximately 240 acres located within Lake County and 195 acres located within Sumter County. The project will be anchored by the regional hospital and will include a mix of ancillary uses across a variety of targeted industries including healthcare, translational science, research, academic, regional retail and commercial facilities, and residential.

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Design work for the first phase is already underway and construction is scheduled to start before the end of the year. The developer has owned the property since 2017.

The Villages is the nation’s largest and fastest-growing retirement community and routinely tops RCLCO’s list of top-selling master-planned communities. Last year, the firm tracked 2,452 sales in the community, which reached agreements with Leesburg officials to expand into the city limits in 2018.

Insight on the massive residential and retail entitlements granted to The Villages as it expands its footprint southward into Lake County.

The Board of County Commissioners voted 3-0 at its July 27 meeting to approve grants from the county’s Economic Development and Business Incentive program, Developer’s Grant Award. Lake County staff has recommended approval. The commission previously gave initial approval to incentives when the development was known as “Project Go West.”

The proposal calls for economic incentives from Lake County requiring that the project results in the creation of a minimum of 100 jobs paying no less than 115 percent of the average annual wage in Lake County. According to the U.S. Census, the average household income is $43,425. The agreement also stipulates that at least $100 million be invested in the project within 15 years and create at least 100 jobs.

The Villages, a retirement haven in Central Florida, was the top-selling master-planned community in the nation last year.
The Villages, a retirement haven in Central Florida, was the top-selling master-planned community in the nation last year. (Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel)

If the commission approves the agreement between the county and The Villages Co., LLC, economic incentives will be based on a percentage of ad valorem taxes on property tied to property located in Lake County. Under the terms of the agreement, the developer will be required to pay the annual property taxes for both ad valorem and personal property and must submit compliance reports tracking new jobs created and their salaries to be eligible for the tax refund. The refund would start at 80% in year one and drop by 10% each subsequent year. Each year after the first decade, the award would remain at 10% for another 10 years.

The development will be built in phases and is required to have made $25 million in capital investments within five years, and $50 million within 10 years, and $100 million within the 15-year time frame.

According to county documents, the Lake County Economic Development and Business Incentive program, Developer’s Grant Award, is an incentive program for new and existing Lake County businesses that enhance and increase economic activity in Lake County by attracting and retaining business activities conducive to economic promotion, preserving and expanding employment opportunities, and improving the welfare and competitive position of the residents of Lake County. The desired outcome is to encourage the location and/or expansion of targeted industry businesses within the geographic boundaries of Lake County.

As a large-scale, mixed-use development, The Villages will be built over a series of phases. The specific business activities and functions that will occur within the area are currently unknown, according to county documents. The Villages will be required to submit a unique application for each project within the Developers Grant Award area that will outline the specific business activities and functions.

GrowthSpotter Editor Laura Kinsler contributed to this report.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at Newsroom@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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