The Villages: Developer of World’s Largest Active Community Dies

Category: Active adult communities

November 13, 2014 — Many residents of the giant active adult community, The Villages, are mourning the loss of the legendary developer of their community, Gary Morse. Morse died on October 29 at the age of 77.

He moved to Central Florida in 1983 and starting selling real estate in the modest mobile home park owned by his father. Originally the homes here were mobile homes in a development called Orange Blossom Gardens. Over time the homes became a mixture of manufactured and stick built homes. Some years later, it is the largest active community in the world with over 100,000 residents, dozens of stores, and sprawling over 30 square miles and multiple counties. There are at least 33 golf courses, 2 village centers, and countless clubs and activities.

Morse built more homes and stores and had great success selling homes with the promise of free golf. The appeal worked and attracted 10s of 1000s of buyers from the Northeast and Midwest. Residents can drive their golf carts almost anywhere; in fact there are many 2 golf cart families.

One of Morse’s innovations was the creation of special taxing districts to fund infrastructure development with the use of tax free bonds. He became a billionaire and was a very important donor to Republican causes. In fact the Villages has become a mandatory political stop on the campaign trail for aspiring GOP candidates.
UPS in the Villages

For more information see the topretirements review of the Villages as well as several articles we have written in the subject, such as “Why Len and Ann Think the Villages is the Best Place to Retire“. See also TheVillageRetirement.com.

Posted by Admin on November 13th, 2014

35 Comments »

  1. One of our local news stations (KDKA-TV) here in Pittsburgh had a couple of segments on the air just a few days ago regarding The Villages, and I must admit it looks like a very lively and interesting place to spend one’s retirement years. Everyone with whom the newscaster spoke to (including a very large contingent from the Pittsburgh area) seemed very happy with their choice of retirement living at the Villages and everyone of them had great things to say about the community. It did look very intriguing to me and my husband. However, as with everything in life, there is no “one size fits all”, so it may not be for everyone.

    by Valerie L. — November 14, 2014

  2. When doing research for my book, I interviewed a number of single women who specifically chose the Villages for all the activities it specifically offers for single women, along with its broad spectrum of housing prices, Florida sunshine, and friendly environment.
    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement (Wiley/AARP)

    by Jan Cullinane — November 14, 2014

  3. Valerie: Thanks for the reference to the news story. I’m going to track it down to see if it’s available on-line.. (For cons, you can find some Villages blog websites, and I found the Leisureville: book to be absolutely fascinating.) I think it’s a unique enough place that it definitely warrants renting for awhile to get the inside scoop about lifestyle, particular neighborhoods, sinkholes, politics/community, resale potential, Villages medical care and other factors that could be a pro or con. Funny – I was in Orlando for a business conference a few months ago, and the major network morning news actually reported the weather in the Villages as a separate story.

    I currently live near one of those huge 55+ communities with golf cart living, including golf-cart access to a small shopping mall. Looks like fun.

    by Sharon — November 15, 2014

  4. Valerie: I just watched the news story on-line. It sure made the Villages look like fun – Morse would have been very pleased. It also made me miss Pittsburgh, where I used to live…and which is still on my retirement list, despite the cold.

    by Sharon — November 15, 2014

  5. Sharon, Having been born and bred in Pittsburgh for virtually most of my life, I completely understand where you are coming from whenever you say that you miss Pittsburgh, because it definitely is a wonderful city to live in. However, take it from me, the cold this week has been brutal with more to come, and after coming home a few weeks ago from a 10-day trip to Florida, we’re ready to get back on the plane and head for a warmer climate — LOL! By the way, did you hear the part where the newscaster said that there were so many Pittsburghers who wanted to join the first “Pittsburgh” club that they had to close it at 700 members and then they continued to open a few more Pittsburgh clubs? Sounds like our hometown people wanted to continue to keep that Pittsburgh flavor in their lives πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Where do you live now, Sharon?

    by Valerie L. — November 15, 2014

  6. I’ve had a home in the villages for the last five years and I agree it’s not for everyone but what place is…we are all so wonderfully unique that one must look for the right fit for you. I just wanted to comment on the Pittsburgh club – there are an enormous number of state clubs in the villages and some states have other clubs for particular areas. Although I am not from The Pittsburgh area, I dated a man who was a member and I can tell you it’s a terrific active club! If you joined nothing else in the villages you would be kept busy just by joining this club with all their potluck dinners, sports nights, outings, etc. I am from NY and there is an upstate club, brooklyn club, queens club, and my club – the Long Island club. Again it’s not for everyone but I have totally enjoyed my time here.

    by Char — November 15, 2014

  7. Temporarily living in Charlotte. Happy with the lower real estate taxes and weather, but not happy at all with the traffic. I am more likely to choose a final destination near family than to pick a location for weather, I think…at least that is today’s conclusion. I change my mind every day!

    by Sharon — November 16, 2014

  8. Pittsburgh People – when you write about the Villages and the Pittsburgh groups, are you talking about a Florida location? We have been living in the West for 40+ years and most of the East and South East retirement locations you write about are totally foreign to us though we grew up in PA. We plan to keep our western home, but explore mobile home parks or apartments within 25 miles of Pittsburgh and Cranberry . Yes, even after 40 years it’s still in the blood!! Any suggestions? There seem to be few listings for apartments or mobile home parks for active retired people in the Pittsburgh area . Guess you are all in Florida.?

    We love all the East and South East info your site provides. We plan a long trip ” back home” in 2015 and you all are the source of our itinerary. Thanks so much.

    by Sandy — November 16, 2014

  9. Sandy, Yes, whenever we are speaking of the Villages, we are referring to Florida, and not Pittsburgh. My husband and I are still living here in Pittsburgh, but we are looking forward to retiring some day (hopefully, sooner, rather than later — LOL!) to a warmer climate, though we’re not so sure if Florida is necessarily the right place for us and are leaning more towards South Carolina than we are towards Florida, but that is all subject to change if we find both the right location, as well as the right community.

    I don’t really know of any mobile home parks for retired people around here in the Pittsburgh area, and I’m not really that well versed on the rental market here either, so I’m sorry but I’m not able to help you out on that score, but I have heard of a 55+ senior community called “Traditions” that is located in Cranberry Township. There is also one located in Sewickley, as well, so you might want to check those communities out.. However, your statement about Pittsburgh still being “in the blood” after being away for 40 years made me smile, because I have heard that from more than one person in my lifetime who left Pittsburgh only to come back home again. We relocated (or should I say more correctly, we tried to relocate) to the Orlando, Florida area about 25 years ago, and it just didn’t take, but of course, we were both still working and much younger than what we are today. However, it was just too much of a culture shock for the both of us, and me, most of all. I wish you well in your search, Sandy.

    by Valerie L. — November 16, 2014

  10. Sharon, Yes, I am aware that Charlotte has a lot of traffic. In fact, whenever we have driven to Myrtle Beach in the past, we had to drive through Charlotte, and although it certainly looked like a beautiful city, we didn’t enjoy the traffic as we drove through it. Unfortunately, there is heavy traffic nearly everywhere, and you just can’t escape it. Believe you me, we have more than our share of it here in the Pittsburgh area, and on one of our last trips back from Greater Pgh. International Airport, it actually took us longer to drive back home from the airport than it did to travel back by plane from Florida to Pittsburgh, so it’s crazy πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    by Valerie L. — November 16, 2014

  11. Jan: I am wondering if you can recommend 1 or 2 55 plus communities in the St. Augustine area that you have personally seen and liked – thanks for any info. Judy

    by judy — November 16, 2014

  12. Jan and persons living in the Villages,

    I am still debating whether i want to live in a 55+ or all-ages community. One friend of mine says he doesn’t want to be in a situation in which the people around him are dying at a much higher rate than usual (higher ages = more deaths in the general population). He also feels that it’s natural to have children around.

    I wonder, though, if i want another situation like the one i have now with my next-door-neighbor’s son playing hockey for hours each day, with pucks (that continually ‘scritch’ on the driveway) only 30 feet from my bedroom window.

    Any comments on 55+ living?

    by ella — November 17, 2014

  13. Can someone tell me more about delwebb in frisco, tx. And summerville, sc

    by Marji — November 17, 2014

  14. Sandy/Valarie: I actually moved away from Pittsburgh just a few months ago, from a Northern suburb. I like Traditions of America, but their base prices are deceptive. A saleswoman told me that their average buyer puts at least $100,000 in options into a unit, making the base prices very deceptive. Their development near Cranberry is sold out except for one fully loaded model unit, and I didn’t like their new development in Sewickley Hills. It’s in Allegheny County so taxes are much higher than Cranberry, Butler, Freedom, Economy, etc., and the road to it looks dangerous to me (very windy and narrow, with a drop on one side that isn’t protected by guardrails). By the time I retire, I hope they are breaking ground somewhere else.

    I don’t know details about mobile home parks, but there are quite a few in Butler County, Washington County and the other counties surrounding Pittsburgh. I have seen a huge manufactured home community that’s about 15 years old that is located about 20 minutes north of Pittsburgh off 79N before Grove City, but I don’t know its name. Of course, with Pittsburgh everyone has a favorite side of the city. Some people swear by the Eastern suburbs, some people love the Southern suburbs, etc. You’ll have to decide on North, South, East or West and go from there. For the North, you could look at the newer Stockton Hills apartment-style condos in Cranberry. Realtor.com has a 2 BR, 2 Bath starting at $138,000, and they look pretty nice with a community pool and other amenities. It would be a 40 minute drive to Pittsburgh.

    by Sharon — November 17, 2014

  15. Ella, I sympathize with you, because that is exactly what we have been putting up with for the past 6 years — two sweet little boys who live next door to us who are enjoying themselves outdoors (as little children should be, mind you). However, at times, it feels as if we are living right smack dab in the middle of Romper Room. For those of you who have forgotten, Romper Room was a long-running children’s TV program that ran in the 1950’s & 1960’s. These two sweet little boys also have a basketball hoop that they were just starting to shoot hoops through right before we got our current cold snap, So, at this point in our lives, an age-restricted 55 plus active adult community is just what we are looking for πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    by Valerie L. — November 18, 2014

  16. Sharon – thank you for the Pittsburgh info. You confirmed the Traditions and property tax info I found in my Internet searches, but your in-person observations were more helpful. The Cranberry condo sounds promising and we’ll check it out. I didn’t realize Cranberry was a 40 minute drive. How is road snow and ice cleanup in the area? I’ve been watching the Weather Channel way too much this week ! I’ve noticed a few Senior apartments and mobile or manufactured home parks in Carnegie. Do you know anything about that area? It seems closer to Pitt. Is it in Allegheny County? Any knowledge of Washington, PA?

    by Sandy — November 18, 2014

  17. Could someone tell me about places in Phoenix area for +55. Not particularly interested in tennis and golf but walking and swimming are right up there. Thanks

    by Sharon Augustyn — November 18, 2014

  18. Marji, I stayed at the Del Webb community in Summerville. Liked the houses and the people I met in the community. Thought the location was a bit remote from Charleston. Actually, a bit remote period. I didn’t like the prices–it would take $100,000 in options to make a house liveable. And the options were VERY limited. You could have formica or granite countertops. No other choices. A simple thing like a hand-held shower was not an option.

    by Linda — November 18, 2014

  19. Sandy: I always thought snow and ice removal was good, but it can vary a little from township to township. The highways are cleared very quickly. Our township’s road crews were fantastic, but we also had one or two major roads that were handled by Allegheny County. Their roads were never maintained as well, probably because they took care of the city before the suburbs. Anyway, you get used to it after awhile and it becomes part of the fun to grab toilet paper, milk and bread at he market before bad weather :-). Or a book at the library, to enjoy by a fire.

    I don’t know as much about Washington County, but I’ve met people who love that area. Probably the same commute except you go through tunnels to get downtown. Each side of the city has its malls, movie theatres etc. Carnegie is an older, small community within a few minutes of downtown. It has a greater population density, and you’d probably drive to the large strip malls out by the airport for shopping. People fall in love with their communities in Pittsburgh, so if you chose Carnegie you’d probably be claiming it’s the best neighborhood in the world within a few months. Likewise, if you chose Washington County or Cranberry Township, you’d soon be saying that it was the only place to live.

    by Sharon — November 19, 2014

  20. I thought that this article was about the loss of the developer of The Villages?

    Editor’s note: Thanks for getting us back on track BRF.. The Pittsburgh discussion is interesting (especially because your editor hales from that part of the world), but it would be better to move this to http://www.topretirements.com/blog/great-towns/most-popular-places-to-retire-for-2014.html/
    These posts work better if we try to stick to the topic. Thanks!

    by BRFGolfNut — November 19, 2014

  21. Used to live in the “Burg” and had to leave because of transfer…lived in Washington County…..miss it lots….country living and Sarris candy!!! but not the SNOW…..my brother-in-law lives in Cranberry in a 55 and over and loves it…He purchased a pre-fab home there…but I don’t know what it’s called…..Both places are great but then again so is Pittsburgh! We now live in Texas…lots of Pittsburgh people live here too. Looking to stay here and retire, just not sure where……warmer weather feels better year round…

    by Marji — November 19, 2014

  22. Ella,

    Active adult communities have been around for more than 50 years, and they are still building them, so a lot of people do like them. And, once people move in they tend to stay, so it’s a testament to that kind of community. However, they are not for everyone. In addition to the age-targeted aspect, there are also covenants and rules that some people don’t like – when you can put out trash and what colors you may paint your home, for example, as well as dues to support the amenities they provide. Is it possible for you to try a long-term rental at one of these communities? That might help you decide.

    You make a good point about the illness and death. I don’t live in a 55+ community, but most of my friends are 55+, so I think it’s more a function of our peer group than of the kind of community. However, it’s also wonderful to see neighbors banding together to help one another out, particularly those without children or other family members to assist.

    In the end, of course, it’s a personal decision. They aren’t for everyone, but many people do love them. (They are usually gated as well, which is another plus for some.)

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

    by Jan — November 19, 2014

  23. Thanks, Linda…we lived in Goose Creek, SC south of Summerville. I heard it was away from things…is that because it hasn’t gotten built up yet??? I have an old neighbor looking into it too….she told me the same thing…But she also said it looks like a hospital will be going in and shopping soon, not sure when.

    Is this true of all Del Webb’s with the upgrades? I guess these are things we’ll find out…

    by Marji — November 19, 2014

  24. Marji,
    I plan to retire in Texas also. Have been looking at the DFW, Austin and Houston areas. I am partial to the Austin area (Georgetown) and the 55+ communities as the DFW area is close to Tornado Alley and the winter weather seems to be problematic. Not sure about Houston, as I presently live in Los Angeles and didn’t like the feel of it. What made you decide on Texas?

    by Veloris — November 19, 2014

  25. Hello Veloris
    Texas has been good to us….no state income tax…but we presently live a little north of Houston, Houston is too big for us. DW Houston too close to the water. We checked out Georgetown and thought about the college kids, and also noticed not too many places to eat. One of our favorite past times. Other than that fell in love with the area. Fresco is all new…the town was once a small country town, but since has grown. Lots of places to eat without going too far and not too many chains (love the mama & papa restaurants). Shopping was close by including a mall. Hospitals and medical close also. Very clean…We are also looking at Summerville. We used to live in Charleston. We miss it… And want to check it out too. We then will have to do the finances and decide between the two of them. The main thing we want is to remain active…I think these places help in keeping a person active.

    by Marji — November 20, 2014

  26. To those looking at a del Webb community, due diligence is needed when looking for a new house. We visited DWPonte Vedra – many minimal “builder quality “(think starter home quality) materials and construction practices at high end prices! Most of what you see in models are upgrades, drop in on a house under construction and look for insulation, lumber quality, windows,etc. Ask lots of questions, assume nothing from what you see, hear, or read in the sales office is 100% so! Better yet, if you love the community, ask to bring in an independent construction supervisor for an inspection. Worth the cost! Buyer beware!

    by SandyZ — November 20, 2014

  27. SandyZ, Have you found that the quality is solely a function of Pulte? Or does the home also depend on location of the DelWebb? I have found that the feel of the community varies quite a bit with DelWebb.and was wondering if the homes do as well.

    by Elaine — November 20, 2014

  28. Elaine, we only looked at the DW in Ponte Vedra so I cannot compare to other DW communities. My husband has spent his career in the building materials industry and saw very little in the homes there that was acceptable. Too bad too, because we loved the surrounding area! Convenient to Jacksonville, close to the beach, and Mayo Clinic nearby.

    by SandyZ — November 21, 2014

  29. Thanks SandyZ. I like the DelWebb amenities and can see me buying into the lifestyle, and although FL is not my first choice, I do like the Jacksonville area so I am disappointed to hear your husband’s thoughts on the subject. Still looking at GA and maybe NC or SC. And just started wondering about DE. But I would like a house that I think is quality built.

    I want a more metro area close enough for me to enjoy some the activities that I like close enough to enjoy. I am not a tennis player and never did much golfing.

    by Elaine — November 21, 2014

  30. Elaine, just recently moved from wny area (Buffalo) to del webb PV. Having been in the construction trades for many years i found the quality of the homes here to be adequate.On a scale of 1-10 would give a 6. Have found the people living here to be very friendly and happy. This is a beautiful area . To myself it is Fl. best kept secret. Hope this helps, Jim

    by james pero — November 22, 2014

  31. Thanks Jim, good info. Guess you are glad to be away from Buffalo right now.

    by Elaine — November 22, 2014

  32. James, it’s interesting that you give Del Webb construction quality a 6 out of 10. Now if their pricing were at that level as opposed to 20, it might be something worth looking at.

    by Linda — November 22, 2014

  33. LINDA, pricing is some higher than i wanted to spend, but i wanted to live close to the ocean in an area with a low crime rate . The area has three seasons and not a lot of traffic as do many other areas of Florida.

    by Jim — November 22, 2014

  34. Moved to Florida in 1990 and stayed till 2013 enjoyed it but missed the trees and change of seasons. Moved to hilton head/bluffton sc and found all including a mild climate beautiful trees and the ocean. Love it all . Yes, we have traffic but so did Florida we even had traffic jams in our golf carts.

    by Pia — November 26, 2014

  35. Judy, three examples of 55+ communities in the St. Augustine vicinity include Cascades in World Golf Village; Sweetwater (Del Webb), about 15 minutes or so from downtown Jacksonville (no golf course); and Nocatee in Ponte Vedra. Nocatee is a master-planned community with a Del Webb community as one of its communities. Nocatee is growing, but there is still LOTS of growth to go. Hope that helps.

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

    by Jan — December 4, 2014

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