Wellen Park, formerly known as West Villages and recently ranked as the No. 4 top-selling master-planned community in the U.S. for two years in a row, is breaking ground on its downtown tomorrow.

Once completed, Downtown Wellen will feature an 80-acre lake, retail shops, restaurant waterfront dining and rooftop decks, pedestrian-friendly streets, a splash pad, a playground and a public town hall gathering place that will host live theater and music events. It will also have a hammock grove and a permanent food truck area.

Other than one-of-a-kind amenities, Downtown Wellen stands out from many master-planned communities that often start out razed, thanks to the 26 mature oak trees that were transplanted there earlier this year, one almost 100 years old.

Growth throughout Wellen Park isn’t slowing down.

“We have 9,000 residents within two miles of where we are developing Downtown Wellen. And we're adding 3,500 new residents every year,” says Rick Severance, the president of Wellen Park.

"We'll no longer have to go to Sarasota or the island or downtown Venice," says resident Larry Cobb. "We’ll have restaurants and shops right across the street from us. Can you imagine an 80-acre lake for kayaking? When this is done, I'm learning to kayak.”

Cobb and his wife, Gail, relocated from Colorado Springs two years ago and chose to settle down in the area after traveling cross country in an R.V. for five months in search of their forever home.

Severance points out that 75 percent of area residents are 55 and older, but Wellen Park has seen an increase in the number of residents between the ages of 35 and 44 in recent years.

“There’s this overarching sense of joy and vibrancy we want to create, so that people are comfortable in flip-flops or at a wedding reception at the town hall,” says Severance.

With 1,415 home sales in 2020, Wellen Park reported an 11 percent increase in sales over 2019. The community features a mix of residential, commercial and recreational options in three districts: West Villages, Downtown Wellen and Playmore. It currently has approximately 8,000 residents, and at full build-out will have more than 60,000 people and 22,000 homes.

Wellen Park is also home to the only Major League Baseball spring training park in the nation to be open year-round. CoolToday Park is already hosting public events throughout the year: car shows, craft fairs, rummage sales, movie nights and a farmers' market.

Downtown Wellen is slated to be complete by the end of 2022.

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