Downtown Wellen Park features new restaurants, businesses, fitness
NORTH PORT – Roughly three years after Mattamy Homes created Downtown Wellen Park, the town center – positioned along a constructed 80-acre lake and anchored by a 97-year-old heritage oak tree and Great Lawn – is coming to life. Shops and restaurants that are part of the first phase should open throughout the spring.
“Downtown Wellen Park is open to everyone, it’s not just residents, and that’s the intention, said Rick Severance, president of Mattamy Homes’ Wellen Park Division. “We care as much about the guys that want to live here – it’s aspirational – or they want this to be a part of what they do on a weekend basis and they may not be residents of Wellen Park but maybe they’re residents of Englewood, maybe they’re residents of North Port, Sarasota.”
For now, the best way to get to Downtown Wellen Park is via Sunglow Boulevard.
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From U.S. 41, visitors can either turn south on Preto Boulevard then east on Sunglow to the town center or turn south on West Villages Parkway, then west into the shopping center.
A turn south on Wellen Park Boulevard – which will someday connect to U.S. 41 by a roundabout – leads to existing parking lots and angle-in parking near Solis Hall and Villani & Co. Steak Seafood and Raw Bar.
Here are five things to know about Downtown Wellen Park:
Wellen Park’s downtown centers around a 97-year-old oak tree
Twenty-six oak trees that dotted the former Thomas Ranch were moved from various locations to line a three-mile path encircling the lake.
The showpiece of the million-dollar relocation effort is a 97-year-old live oak heritage tree that has already been popular with adventurous climbers.
“Not only does it create the right sense of place, it gives us shade where we don’t have a lot of shade and we need it in this area – especially during the summer,” Severance said.
New Wellen Park restaurants, retail
While Downtown Wellen Park will offer retail options not available online, services such as Florida Lakes Vein Center and Florida Lakes Spa, and be home to a boutique hotel, most residents surveyed wanted upscale restaurant options.
Five restaurants and an ice cream shop are among the businesses set to open in the first phase of Downtown Wellen.
Brothers David and Dennis Valentino and partner Mark Costanzo will operate The Banyan House Restaurant, which will include indoor and outdoor seating and sunset views, as well as serve as the exclusive caterer for events at Solis Hall.
The Valentinos will also operate Acqua Pazza Coastal Italian.
Oak & Stone Craft Beer and Artisan Pizza offers a rooftop bar view of the lake at sunset.
Wellen Park has a special purpose license, allowing people who grab a beer at Oak & Stone to carry it outside to other public seating areas.
Tommy Villani, who already operates Irma’s Tacos, Craft Beer and Tequila Bar in Wellen Park, plans to open Villani & Co., a steak, seafood and raw bar on Wellen Park Boulevard, across the street from the Great Lawn.
Wellen Park designed for outdoor events
Solis Hall – a combined event venue and performance stage – fronts the Great Lawn, where people can bring chairs to attend a free weekly concert series, set for 6 to 9 p.m. Fridays.
The green hosts yoga from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturdays and Zumba form 9 to 10 a.m. Mondays.
Also debuting later this year is Saturday movie nights, alternating family-friendly films and more sophisticated offerings.
Cornhole and live music are set for Wellen Wednesdays at The Yard, anchored by three retrofitted shipping containers that provide casual food service. Two of the three locations – Pop Dawgs and Claw & Co. – are open for events, while a third vendor featuring Mediterranean food is to open this spring.
Fitness activities for North Port’s new downtown
Mattamy Homes founder and CEO Peter Gilgan is promoting a healthy lifestyle. More than 20 miles of trails connect all of Wellen Park, including the trail around the lake. It’s not surprising that Kind Vibes Outfitters – which rents bicycles, electric bicycles and kayaks – is among the first stores to open.
Downtown Wellen features a public dock, where people can launch canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddleboards, though motorized watercraft are not allowed.
The lake is also stocked with a variety of fish for catch-and-release anglers.
Wellen Park designed for wide age range
Before COVID-19, the typical age of prospective Wellen Park homeowner was 63, Severance said. Since then buyers have skewed significantly younger, with more families moving in.
A splash pad area offers a cool respite to youngsters like 3-year-old Emerson Cate, who stopped by on Feb. 22.
“I think it’s great here,” Jillian Cate said as Emerson darted through the water jets. “There hasn’t been much for young families to do and with this new addition there’s going to be a lot to do here.”
Down the path, a unique Nature Play playground offers all-ages adventures.
The Canopy Green, behind Solis Hall, features artificial turf and offers opportunities for children to unwind, especially when it’s used as a showcase for Habitat Cottages that will eventually be auctioned off as part of a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity.