If you hadn’t heard before about Mark Bellissimo’s ambitious development plans for more than 600 acres in the heart of Wellington, you most likely have by now.
News broke this week that Bellissimo, a Wellington resident and entrepreneur who has invested heavily in the village’s equestrian industry, brought in NEXUS Luxury Collection as a partner to work with him on realizing his vision for The Wellington, which a news release bills as “a luxury residential club community in the heart of Wellington that celebrates the best of South Florida and equestrian sport.”
What is NEXUS Luxury Collection? It’s a development company founded by private investor Joe Lewis, along with Tiger Woods, Justin Timberlake and Ernie Els. Yes, the Tiger Woods, Justin Timberlake and Ernie Els. The partnership of NEXUS and Bellissimo’s team of investors is called Wellington Lifestyle Partners.
A news release went out Monday, and pretty soon, national news outlets were reporting on the new luxury residential development being planned by Woods and Timberlake in South Florida. Though I doubt Woods, Timberlake and Els will have much to do with it other than maybe lending some heavy-hitter influence in the approval process and their presence at a ribbon-cutting or two, having their names attached to the project is sure getting a lot of attention.
So what is The Wellington?
Previously called The Lagoon, The Estates and The Market at Equestrian Village, the recently renamed The Wellington is being proposed in three parts: Wellington North, Wellington South and The Wellington Market.
Bellissimo first unveiled his proposals to the public last year, holding a public workshop where he laid out the original plans, which included a recreational lagoon — thus that part of the project’s original name, The Lagoon. Bellissimo called his plan “Wellington 3.0.”
Since that meeting, Bellissimo’s team brought on NEXUS as partner, and Bellissimo closed a $35 million deal to buy the 125-acre, 18-hole Cypress golf course at Palm Beach Polo and Country Club from Palm Beach Polo Inc., a company managed by Glenn Straub. The new plans for The Wellington incorporate the Cypress course as part of the amenities offered to Wellington club members. The lagoon portion of the project has been cut.
Without the Cypress course, the project totals about 430 acres.
“WLP is eager to launch this next chapter to ensure that Wellington continues as the world’s premier equestrian lifestyle destination,” Bellissimo said in a news release. “With NEXUS, we have selected an experienced, top-tier development partner to help us create The Wellington, a world-class residential experience that underscores all we have come to love about this village – sport, recreation, and community.”
The Wellington North would be on the northeast corner of South Shore Boulevard and Pierson Road.
The Wellington South would be northwest of the corner of Lake Worth Road and South Shore.
The Wellington Market would be on the southeast corner of South Shore and Greenview Shores boulevards.
What would each portion of the project include?
According to recently refiled planning documents, here are the proposed uses for each piece of The Wellington.
The Wellington North
- 300 residential units with 272 multi-family units and 28 single-family homes.
- The Cypress course, plus a driving range, putting green and short game practice area.
- 18-acre central park with lake, walking trails and gardens.
- Clubhouse with four swimming pools and a waterside restaurant.
- 13 tennis courts, 12 pickleball courts and 10 padel courts.
- 100,000-square-foot Field House with indoor tennis courts, pickleball, padel, squash, rock-climbing wall, and sport simulators for golf, auto racing and equestrian training, plus a full basketball courts.
- Children’s play zone.
- Wellness facility with spa, fitness gym, cardio rooms, weights and circuit training.
The Wellington South
- 197 single-family units with lots from a quarter-acre up to 5 acres.
- Large lake with walking trails and boat access.
- Pocket parks.
- Green common areas.
- Second entrance dedicated to horse trailers.
- Link to Wellington International showgrounds next door that is open to horse, golf cart or pedestrian traffic only.
- Bridle trail.
The Wellington Market
- A 120,000-square-foot hotel with a pool.
- 89 multi-family units with two parking spaces per unit.
- Open community plazas.
- Green space between multi-family units.
- 145,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and general office space with underground parking.
What has to happen for these to be built?
Each of the projects will have to go through multiple rounds of approvals with the village, including the Architectural Review Board, Equestrian Preserve Committee, Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board and Village Council.
Both Wellington North and Wellington South first will have to go before the Equestrian Preserve Committee. For Wellington North, the EPC will review whether or not to remove that property from Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Area. If that request is recommended for approval by the EPC and by the planning board, and then approved by the council, then any further Wellington North applications would not have to go back to the EPC, Planning and Zoning Director Tim Stillings said. They would go directly to the Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board for review, and then to the Village Council.
The Market project would be reviewed only by the planning board before going to the council, Stillings said.
The applications could go to their first board hearings in June, he said, adding that village staff is asking the members of the Equestrian Preserve Committee to be available for the evenings of June 7 and 8, in case the meeting runs long and needs to be continued to the following night.
There will be many opportunities for residents and community stakeholders to comment on the project at public meetings. If you do attend one of these meetings, prepare for a packed house. Arrive as early as you can if you want a seat. Eat dinner before the meeting. Bring a bottled water. Use the bathroom before the meeting starts. Anytime a controversial application goes before a Wellington board, the meetings run for hours. I speak from experience.
What is there now?
Equestrian Village is on the northeast corner of South Shore and Pierson. It has a stadium, arenas, nearly 200 horse stalls, plus pavilions. It plays host to dressage competitions, along with jumper and grand prix events, exhibitions and clinics.
The proposed Wellington South is in the Wellington Countryplace PUD (planned-unit development), and a site plan approved about two decades ago sets the stage for single-family homes on at least part of that property. Right now, there are polo fields on part of the property and a pasture with horses on another portion. The rest is wooded.
The Wellington Market property is open and undeveloped. Some infrastructure has been put it but would need to be redone under the proposed site plan, village records show.
From Winter Equestrian Capital of the World to global equestrian capital
In resubmitting plans for The Wellington, agents for the development team said Wellington needs to adapt to meet the growing demands for equestrian sports. They pointed to the World Equestrian Center in Ocala and competing events in Sarasota, Spain, Portugal and Italy.
“To preserve the Village’s stake in the equestrian industry and establish our community as the true Equestrian Capital of the World. the showgrounds and related lifestyle amenities must be expanded and enhanced, and high-end residential opportunities must be available to support those equestrian facilities,” the agents for the project wrote in their justification statement. “Wellington must take the next step forward or be forced back.”
Wellington International is at capacity and needs to expand, the justification statement says.
A Bellissimo-led group, Wellington Equestrian Partners, owned Wellington International until July of 2021, when the site was sold to Global Equestrian Group. As part of that sale, Bellissimo’s group also sold about 14 residential acres to Global Equestrian, with another 80 acres under contract to sell, according to the justification statement.
Global Equestrian Group plans to convert a total of about 120 acres from residential use to be incorporated into the showgrounds as a major expansion that would bring all equestrian competition into one central location, according to the statement.
Remember the Wellington Countryplace PUD I mentioned before? Under the current zoning, which was approved in the ’90s, the properties Global Equestrian Group has amassed for its showgrounds expansion are allocated 199 dwelling units, the statement said.
“This consolidation makes room at the subject site for new quality residential offerings to be built in the heart of Wellington,” the statement says.
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