Massive Housing, Retail Expansion Proposed, Aimed at Making Wellington “Equestrian Capital of the World”
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July 30, 2022
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
A proposal for a massive residential and retail development centered on the existing Global Dressage Festival grounds has been submitted to the local government in the first stage of a plan the developers claim will transform Wellington into a year-round “Equestrian Capital of the World.”
The initial stage of the project provides for 300 high end residences along with retail stores on the existing Global grounds, a second housing complex of about 200 residences a few hundred yards/meters away in an area known as Peacock Pond and adjoining the main jumping show grounds. Future expansion could include a hotel and other structures on land that is currently vacant next to a small strip mall across from the main entrance of the existing Global facility.
Detailed plans were submitted to the Village of Wellington by the development group that includes Mark Bellissimo and his daughter, Paige, for a residential community named the Lagoon at Equestrian Village with a “golf cart-in, golf cart-out” lifestyle to emulate “ski-in, ski-out” affluent towns in Colorado and the French/Swiss Alps. It embraces the Global grounds, and neighboring White Birch polo fields and the Coach House, an upscale multi-family condominium project that was previously the Players Club bar and restaurant.
The proposal did not disclose the proposed investment but said the changes would increase the village’s tax base upwards of $1.5 billion in assessed value.
The current Global dressage grounds that will be the centerpiece of the new development, if approved, were not included in the sale a year ago of the Winter Equestrian Festival jumping grounds to the European-owned Global Equestrian Group (GEG) operated by Andreas Helgstrand of Denmark and Ludger Beerbaum of Germany. The competition venue was renamed Wellington International from Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
The developments hinges on enlarging the footprint of Wellington International for a new dressage facility in place of the current Global grounds.
Plans are to enlarge Wellington International to more than 190 acres/77ha from the current 86.6 acres/35ha to accommodate dressage and expand hunter/jumper facilities.
Conversion of the Global grounds would complete the change of ownership of all three major equestrian venues in Wellington.
The Winter Equestrian Festival formed almost 40 years ago and bought by Wellington Equestrian Partners headed by Mark Bellissimo in 2007 and sold to GEG a year ago. International Polo Club initially built by John Goodman then sold to a separate entity also headed by Mark Bellissimo was bought by the U.S. Polo Association two months ago.
The Global grounds were created 12 years ago by the partnership that bought the jumping facility. The site was the original Polo Field No. 1 where Britain’s Prince Charles watched by his wife, Princess Diana, played polo in 1985 in a boost to creating Wellington as an international equestrian competition center. The partnership still owns the property but if the housing and retail development goes ahead dressage will move to Wellington International, which is undergoing a substantial rehabilitation program and construction of new permanent barns.
Wellington, with a population of about 65,000, is the center of a large equestrian area that includes several neighboring communities.
The equestrian industry is the largest driver of economic impact in Wellington and Palm Beach County, the developers report, with an international airport 20 minutes away, 17 miles/27km to Atlantic beaches and 70 miles/112km to Miami. There are extensive cultural and sports activities and Disney World is 170 miles/270km away in Orlando.
“There is significant global interest to compete and invest in Wellington,” the development proposal said. “However, without the expansion of the showgrounds and the addition of high‐quality housing options within the immediate area, the equestrian industry cannot sustain growth and may suffer retraction through those willing to move their equestrian operations to the newly‐opened, 7,000-acre World Equestrian Center in Ocala, Florida which is a self‐contained destination.
“A coordinated effort will be required to achieve the vision which will solidify Wellington as the equestrian capital of the world. Such required action is already happening with the recent sale of the International Polo Club property to the United States Polo Association.
“This single act alone ensures decades of continued polo industry contributions and impacts to the area. Applicant’s proposal will further progress what all residents and all those within the equestrian industry want for this village.
“The greater the equestrian experience and the more people invest in quality barns and residences in Wellington, the greater the likelihood generations will continue to call Wellington their home.