West Villages has plans for new downtown

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NORTH PORT, FL (WWSB) - A traditional main street. That's the vision for the  West Villages according to its General Manager Marty Black. Traditional in the sense of street parking and retail businesses, with perhaps some sibling rivalry.

"Are we talking Lakewood Ranch in the West Villages?" we asked. "I would say it's better than Lakewood Ranch," Black responded.

West Villages General Manager Marty Black hopes to use Lakewood Ranch as a spring board in how to enhance a downtown experience.

"In just subtle things like how wide the sidewalks are so you have greater areas for outdoor dining," said Black.

But, to make all of this happen, the West Villages has needed a grocery anchor store. They've been tight lipped about it… but, we now know that store will be Publix.

"Already we've had people calling saying we heard about the Braves, heard about the West Villages how do we go about bringing businesses from out of town?," said Chamber of Commerce Director Bill Gunnin.

Gunnin is noticeably thrilled.

"Instead of them having to go south to Ft. Myers and north to Sarasota this is going to bring a whole venue of entertainment for them to stay home which means they'll spend money here and keep the tax dollars here," said Gunnin.

North Port Commissioners this week approved the first phase of planning. There will be more to go. Just last week they approved the Braves Spring Training stadium.

"You'll now have an over $100-million-dollar spring training facility with sports rehabilitation programs and other community events going on," said Black.