Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Villages - Florida's Friendliest Hometown

My Beloved is playing a golf tournament and I came along to check out the local thrifts.

Our destination is The Villages – an “Active Lifestyle” community. Think Sun City, only with Live Oaks and Spanish Moss as opposed to sand and cactus. The other major difference is that Sun City is now adjacent to the city of Phoenix, The Villages are an entity unto themselves.

It’s a series of master planned, gated communities ten minutes south of the town of Belleview (population 4,000) and 10 north of Lessburg (population 19.,000). The Villages residents number over 50,000 – and over 60 % of those residents are over the age of 65. 98% of them are also Anglo. The residents have an annual income that is more the twice the annual average of the surrounding towns. To say that The Villages have Clout with a captital C is an understatement.

It reminds of Main Street at Disney World. It’s picture perfect world, small town living in a “It’s a Wonderful Life, meets Leave to Beaver, meets Father Knows Best” sort of word. The sort of world that really doesn’t and has never existed but the powers that be have done their very best to replicate it, smack dab in the middle of central Florida.

The main street is named what else - “Main Street”. There is town square surrounded by shops, all with outdoor cafes and lots of little boutiquey like stores.
Within the Villages golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation – there are special golf cart lanes, golf cart parking and golf cart garages. Each golf cart is lovingly detailed and customized. IT gives new meaning to the phrase "Pimp My Ride".

No only are these used on the many, many golf courses, they are also used to get around. Unlike a real small town, where people walked, The Villages are in reality a series of sprawling suburbs, complete with cul de sacs, long winding roads and very few through streets. Even when one tries to walk in The Villages one finds one can’t. The sidewalks are more for show than actual foot power. I tried to walk to the town square from our hotel and found that I kept having to cut through parking lots or walk on the grass as the sidewalks abruptly petered out.

Just outside The Villages, on Hwy27 is the shopping area – also golf cart accessible ,color coded and appearance mandated within an inch of it’s life. The Wendy’s looks like the McDonalds which looks like the Publix. All the restaurants are national chains – no funky little dive on a shoestring budget could ever afford to open up in a place like this. The stores are all part of national chains too – again only a deep pocket national retailer could afford the start up costs necessary to blend in. Eye sores, funky chic, shabby chic, one of a kind and individuality are not allowed.

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit has migrated to The Villages. He’s traded in his suit for a golf shirt but otherwise his life is hasn’t changed a bit. Life is safe, bland and oh so well planned out. In a way it’s like High School all over again, those who fit in are happy as can be, the lone wolves must be leading lives of quiet desperation.

Me, I’m a lone wolf who would never make it in a place like this.

1 comment:

alice, uptown said...

I assume The Villages belong to that ever-so-charming species known as the gated community.... they are those "...little boxes made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same..."