Here's a little history.
Harold Schwartz and Al Tarrson worked with Orange Blossom Gardens during the 1970s, but by the early 1980’s the community had sold 400 homes. Wanting to ramp things up, Schwartz bought out his partner and asked his son, Gary Morse, to help him with the business. Morse moved from Michigan to take over operations in 1983.
Looking at communities similar to Sun City (with a golf course, stocked ponds and hobby shops) that were so successful, the incorporated the same plan here and added amenities. Gary Morse's Wife Sharon also helped by using her interior design skills. She created building designs and homes throughout the community.
1985, Orange Blossom Gardens was annexed into the Town of Lady Lake. At this time there were parties being held by the community in plazas and the development of two pools, horseshoe, bocce ball and tennis courts and the first 9 holes of Orange Blossom Hills golf Course were being processed. Jennifer Parr, Gary's Granddaughter took over home sales this year.
Soon after this, Gary's son, Mark Morse, joined the team on plans for his first commercial and medical center, La Plaza Grande. By 1987 they had $40 Million in annual sales and more than $4 million in profits. But it continued to grow. This year, a bowling center and grocery stores moved in. And "The Village" neighborhood was created. Villages of Del Mar, El Cortez and Mira Masa was built.
In the 1990s a golf course and the first recreation center were built. In less than a decade, Orange Blossom Gardens powered Lady Lake from a town of about 3,000 into a city of more than 10,000.
1991 The Villages was accepted at the name of the development. Spanish Springs was created and CDDs were developed. Community Development Districts are special-purpose local governments. They are structured so developers can control the “district” and issue low-interests bonds. Funds from the bonds are then used to build infrastructure and amenities for the district residents. (Read more about CDDS in Chapter 12).
By 2001, The Villages was growing with 10 new residents per day. 16 Restaurants, 13 pools, 28 tennis courts, and 3 churches byt this time. The population was 27,000 people. They also controlled their own media outlet by using The Daily Sun newspaper and a news network station in addition to a radio station.
The medical center was opened in 2002, then Harold the Founder had passed in 2003. In 2004, The Department of Veterans Affairs accepted Gary's offer to build a Veterans clinic. More than 100,000 materials were being moved a day 6 days a week. This was an unbelievable time here. in 2005 The Villages advertised the community as a Golf lifestyle. With residents driving their golf carts not only on the course but to the grocery stores and out to dinner. This year The Villages had the longest golf cart parade in the world!
Also, in 2005 the numbers were up to more than 30 tennis courts, 26 pools, 5 softball fields, 53 horseshoe pits, 72 bocce ball courts, 74 shuffleboard courts, 57 billiards and 12 recreation centers.
By 2007, The Villages was then rated the largest retirement community in the U.S. with more than 67,000 residents.
2013, The Villages had been classified as metropolitan area and in 2014 it was rated the fastest growing. In 2015 estimates reflect more than 115,000 residents in The Villages. Gary Morse passed in 2014, the development was passed on to his children to keep his dream for the community to grow alive.
TODAY, in December 2016 the population reads 157,000. New homes are still being built, expanding The Villages from Hwy. 42 in Marion County down to Hwy 44 in Leesburg/Wildwood area covering 32 square miles.
1. The Average age is 60-62.
2. 20 people on average move into the Villages everyday.
3. Average pre-owned homes sales are 200 a month.
4. Commercial property here is more than 97% occupancy rate.
5. There are over 2,400 organized clubs.
6. The Villages has the most golf holes than any other community in the entire world holding 540 holes,
7. There are about 10,000 tee times any given day.
8. There are 3 dog parks, Paradise, Mulberry and Brinson-Perry
9. The Villages has it's own Polo fields that crowds over 30,000 spectators a year.
10. Villagers play 5,200 softball games a year.
All of the information above can be found online and all numbers are not guaranteed at this time, but are thought to be accurate.