The Villages® community has a unique and distinctive beginning and innovation. During the 1960’s, land within and around the immediate Villages® community area was sold to individuals via purchase order by a Michigan businessman named Harold Schwartz. Then, a ban went into effect which prohibited the sale of property through the mail, and Harold was stuck with a large area of the unsold property on his hands.
Initially, the idea was to use the land to make a housing park. Development for a place called Orange Blossom Gardens began in the Seventies. Sadly, however, for Schwartz and his business partner, Al Tarrson, only 400 housing units were sold by the early 1980’s. To spark new development and turn things around, Schwartz made the decision to buy out Tarrson and asked hisown son, Gary Morse, to assist him in taking over operations.
Schwartz and Morse decided to bring a boost to Orange Blossom Gardens by considering the methods of the successfully planned retirement community, called Sun City. This retirement community features a manicure golf course, stocked fishing ponds and hobby retail shops.
By 1985, the community of Orange Blossom Gardens took shape and featured a community plaza, two swimming pools, horseshoes, bocce ball, lawn tennis courts, and a golf course.
Continuing to boost and enhance the success of the community, the family of developers decided to develop a concept that supplied residents with everything they would want or need right in their neighborhood. A medical center, a bank, and a medical workplace were added. The family continued to add even more businesses to produce entirely different services for the residents to choose from.
With the community flourishing, the developers started planning and building homes. When the milestone of more than $40 million in annual sales for the year of 1987 was hit, a bowling alley and a grocery store moved into the community.
With sales of homes thriving, a “village” concept plan developed, and three villages were designed - Del Mar, El Cortez and Mira Mesa.
The success of the Orange Blossom Gardens community transformed the little city of Lady Lake from just 3,000 residents to over 10,000. By 1990, additional recreational places were built, including a hotel, a recreation center, and a golf course. In 1991, even more communities were designed, and the Orange Blossom Gardens community was changed to a brand new name: The Villages.
Over the next decades, sales continued to climb, and more amenities were added. By 2001, The Villages® community was home to more than a dozen golf courses, three churches, thirteen pools, sixteen restaurants, twenty-eight tennis courts, and by then, of course, 27,000 residents.
In the last ten years, the Villages® community has continued to grow. The Villages® community has established its radio station, television station, and newspaper; and all of these are smartly controlled by the developers. When Harold Schwartz passed away in 2003, The Villages® community had become home to more than 35,000 residents and was featured in Builder Magazine as one of the top 100 places to build.
By 2005, The Villages® community provided its residents with five softball fields, seven championship golf courses, twelve recreation centers, eighteen executive golf courses, twenty-six pools, thirty lawn tennis courts; several places to play horseshoes, shuffleboard, bocce ball, bowling and a movie theater.
In 2007, The Villages® community was recognized as the largest retirement community in the United States with more than 67,000 residents! Just a year later, the town was named the most rapidly growing micropolitan areas in the nation. 38,000 homes were designed with 75,000 residents calling The Villages® community home.
By 2014, the community was home to 100,000 residents over 55; happily driving their golf carts not just to the green to play, but also to shop, dine out and enjoy the more than 1,700 activities available to them.