This is the second of two columns describing the original and continuing involvement of the military at Freedom Plaza.
The first article covered the years from 1986, when the concept of creating a retired officers community in the Tampa area was initiated, to 1990, when the dream was becoming a reality. The Retired Officers Village Inc. was founded and a marketing center, now the Plaza Club, opened on Upper Creek Drive. The adjoining property – 140 acres that included a nature preserve and abutted Sun City Center – was being developed and would be managed by Freedom Group Inc.
The marketing center was a hub of activity promoting two buildings: the Retired Officers Village and its counterpart, Freedom Plaza, for civilian retirees. Though these residences would be separate, their services, healthcare options, activities and amenities were to be identical.
As mentioned in the previous article, dreams do sometimes take unexpected turns and this one was no exception. The Savings and Loans crisis of the early 1990s resulted in diminished sales for both residences. By combining the two, however, state project requirements would be met and construction could proceed.
So rather than the two buildings originally planned there would be only one – named Freedom Plaza – open to both military and civilian retirees. Freedom Group continued as developer and manager, and the Retired Officers Village Inc. morphed into the Retired Officers Corporation, the organization listed as sponsor on the entrance walls of Freedom Plaza.
The corporation maintains offices at Freedom Plaza as does Brookdale Senior Living, Freedom Plaza’s current owner. While the corporation’s primary mission is to market Freedom Plaza to military demographics, it redirects a large portion of its earnings back to Freedom Plaza, which uses the funds for significant undertakings like the new Olympic-quality tennis courts and a recent $16,000 upgrade to the auditorium’s sound system. The corporation is also a generous contributor to the Freedom Plaza Scholarship Fund.
It also furnishes residents with myriad personal services, including arranging memorial services and assisting survivors; making travel arrangements; designing and printing material for various clubs; providing home-computer assistance and a fax service.
On a daily basis the Retired Officers Corporation exhibits its dedication to Freedom Plaza residents who are grateful indeed for this continuing military connection.
Peggy Burgess is a resident activities associate of Freedom Plaza and columnist for The Sun.