Mayor Ed Wolf envisions a day when Wildwood ranks among the many largest cities in Central Florida. Town is properly on its means. Wildwood is rising quicker than every other metropolis within the state with a inhabitants of no less than 5,000, with a rise of about 57% throughout a 24-month interval studied by the College of Florida’s Bureau of Financial and Enterprise Analysis. The company estimates Wildwood’s inhabitants at 24,681 as of April 1, 2022, a rise of practically 9,000 for the reason that U.S. Census in April 2020. “Little outdated Wildwood is in an entire completely different bracket now,” Wolf mentioned. “Now we have so many individuals wanting to maneuver to Florida from up North and Wildwood has benefited from that tremendously.”
Solely Westlake, a small metropolis based in 2016 in Palm Seaside County, noticed a better share improve, rising about 229% from 906 to 2,981 residents between April 2020 and April 2022.
Whereas The Villages’ growth in Wildwood south of State Street 44 is driving the vast majority of the inhabitants development, each different area of town is seeing new improvement, Metropolis Supervisor Jason McHugh mentioned.
“It’s fairly exceptional,” he mentioned. “We’re seeing the constructive facets of the expansion all through all the metropolis.”
Town’s inhabitants has greater than tripled since 2010, when it had 6,709 residents, in line with UF.
New residents have added to town’s tax base that for fiscal yr 2022-23 is estimated at $4.4 billion, a rise of about 46% from the earlier yr, McHugh mentioned.
Longtime residents can’t consider the adjustments within the metropolis lately, Commissioner Pamala Harrison-Bivins mentioned.
“Having lived in Wildwood most of my life, it’s a massive change,” she mentioned. “Personally, I find it irresistible. And I believe most different residents who’ve grown up right here and lived their complete lives right here see it as an excellent factor. They get pleasure from the additional facilities and new companies which have include the expansion.”
Wildwood continues to paved the way within the county’s push to satisfy calls for for extra workforce housing.
A 2018 Sumter County housing examine decided the fastest-growing county within the nation wanted no less than 3,256 housing models with the suggestion that just about half that quantity (1,500 models) be lined by multi-family choices akin to flats and townhomes.
Since October 2020, the Wildwood Metropolis Fee has given the inexperienced mild for builders to proceed with practically 1,700 single-family houses and about 3,700 multi-family flats or townhomes all through town.
In July, commissioners authorized the most important single improvement outdoors of The Villages. Twisted Oaks Pointe will add about 1,260 houses along with 162,000 sq. ft of economic and industrial alternatives. The 387-acre improvement from The Kolter Group can be west of U.S. Freeway 301, south of County Street 462 and east of CR 209.
Kolter is nearing buildout of the Beaumont group, which may have 271 single-family houses, 124 townhomes and 336 house models. Industrial properties at Beaumont embody 7-Eleven, Culver’s, Motion Gator Tire and Sweetwater Automobile Wash. A House 2 Suites prolonged keep lodge is predicted to open quickly. Huey Magoo’s, Burger-Fi and Ashley Furnishings have introduced plans to open new shops on the group.
Kolter can also be authorized for one more 374 single-family houses and 240 flats adjoining to Twisted Oaks and 407 houses at One Hundred Oaks on the west of U.S. 301 south of Florida’s Turnpike.
“Kolter, like quite a lot of builders, has taken an actual curiosity in Wildwood and Sumter County,” Wolf mentioned.
A number of initiatives authorized by the fee in 2021 are nearing completion, together with 244 models at West Village Residences, 294 flats at The Mark at Wildwood, and 71 single-family houses at Wildwood Touchdown.
Within the second quarter of 2022, town’s improvement companies division processed 1,335 initiatives, which represents a file for town, McHugh mentioned. Of these, 1,012 have been permits for brand spanking new single-family houses.
Wildwood is embarking on an bold revitalization of its downtown to draw much more facilities and enterprise.
Commissioners in October authorized the primary undertaking related to the Downtown Grasp Plan adopted in 2021.
G3 Improvement, a family-owned actual property developer based mostly in Mount Dora, is partnering with town to develop an 8,000-square-foot, mixed-use business area alongside Essential Avenue throughout from Metropolis Corridor dubbed “The Railyard,” in a nod to the city’s railroad historical past. A proposed 126-space, four-story parking storage can be developed concurrently a pair blocks to the north.
“This undertaking is large,” Wolf mentioned. “This can set the stage for the way forward for town of Wildwood.”
The proposed price of the undertaking is about $7.9 million. Funds have been earmarked within the Neighborhood Redevelopment Company funds, McHugh mentioned.
“Hopefully this may spark further funding and different issues will occur right here,” he mentioned. “That can convey extra tax income to town which, in the end, ought to fund future initiatives.”
McHugh mentioned ideally work can start within the first quarter of 2023.
Town authorized its bold 30-year downtown grasp plan in November 2021 that requires:
• Re-routing U.S. Freeway 301 away from the downtown core.
• Buying and creating land owned by CSX Transportation.
• Enhancing entry through elevated parking and extra bicycle and pedestrian trails.
• Redevelopment of a number of present buildings and purchasing facilities and selling improvement of vacant areas.
• Creating extra public park area to make use of for programming to draw guests.
• Growing quite a lot of housing choices to permit folks to reside and work within the downtown space.
“This downtown revitalization could possibly be among the finest issues to ever occur to this metropolis,” Wolf mentioned.
Harrison-Bivins additionally factors to elevated choices and programming from the Wildwood Parks and Recreation Division as a serious profit afforded by the expansion. She is very excited concerning the splash pad being put in on the metropolis’s Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
“I name that undertaking my child,” she mentioned. “I simply hope and pray folks will get pleasure from it as a lot as I’ve envisioned. And I’m elated that we’ve been capable of provide a lot extra to our residents. Whether or not it’s grownup kickball leagues or Motion pictures Beneath the Stars, our Parks and Recreation Division has performed an exceptional job of planning actions that get folks out in the neighborhood.”
Additionally within the works is a serious Millennium Park growth undertaking. Plans name for finally including an aquatic middle, amphitheater, canine park, occasion backyard, wedding ceremony garden and sports activities courts for basketball, racquetball, pickleball and tennis.
Town is also increasing well being care choices.
HCA Florida Healthcare, a part of HCA Healthcare, has introduced plans to construct a 60-bed, three-story hospital alongside County Street 466A at Trailwinds Village.
In 2020 town welcomed the Heart for Superior Healthcare at Brownwood, a 240,000-square-foot outpatient facility that includes an array of suppliers providing imaging, oncology, ophthalmology, rehabilitation and pharmacy, amongst different companies.
Wildwood is also residence to not one however two 24/7 emergency rooms, with UF Well being The Villages Hospital Freestanding ER throughout from Brownwood and Ocala Well being Trailwinds Village ER on CR 466A.
“I can’t consider a greater space to advance well being care,” Wolf mentioned.
Metropolis officers know the expansion isn’t going to decelerate.
“Now we have stuff occurring far and wide,” McHugh mentioned. “Individuals need to transfer to Florida and that’s not going to finish any time quickly.”
The tempo of inhabitants development ought to proceed for years, Wolf mentioned.
“That is actually only the start for us,” he mentioned. “I wouldn’t be stunned if we added one other 4,000 to five,000 folks a yr for the following a number of years. Persons are coming to Florida in file numbers and I can’t consider a greater place in Florida than Wildwood.”
Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman might be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or [email protected].