LEESBURG, FL-This Lake County city of 40,000 residents, 45 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando, is about to be home to the second largest warehouse/distribution center in Central Florida–a 1.2 million sf, estimated $60-million project for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The largest commercial distribution center between Orlando and Tampa is the 1.5 million sf facility used by Kmart in Ocala, FL, about 80 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando.

Commercial real estate brokers familiar with the deal tell Globest.com city that commissioners are expected to vote on the proposal this week. Neither the city nor Wal-Mart would confirm or deny the world’s largest retailer is the mystery developer in a deal that has been rumored for months.

Wal-Mart is reported to be buying 200 acres for the distribution cente in the city-owned, 826-acre sprayfield and water treatment center near County Road 470 and the Florida Turnpike in the hamlet of Okahumpka. Leesburg owns the sprayfield, which is located in Okahumpka.

The price for the dirt is $1.6 million or $8,000 per acre (18 cents per sf). After expenses and legal fees, the city would net $127,574, according to the city’s economic development department.

Carter & Burgess Corp. of Fort Worth, TX is the consultant to the so-far unidentified developer planning the project. The distribution center would create an estimated 1,200 jobs at the site and another 1,200 positions would be generated in businesses servicing the center, according to city officials. A total $71 million in annual wages would be generated from the 2,400 new positions.

Wal-Mart has two nearby distribution centers in Brooksville, FL and Winter Haven, FL. The retailer needs larger warehouse/distribution space to service two existing 230,000-sf supercenters in Mount Dora, FL and Leesburg.

The company may be eligible for $6.4 million in economic incentices from Leesburg, Lake County and the state. The incentive package includes $2.4 million in city property tax exemptions.

The last center, built in 1999, was the 900,000-sf Circuit City warehouse/distribution center in Lake County’s Christopher C. Ford Industrial Park.

Wal-Mart has encountered repeated opposition from residential groups in Lake County and in communities outside of Florida fearful of large industrial projects decreasing the value of their property and creating dangerous traffic congestion.

But the site on the sprayfields of Okahumpka is different. There aren’t any houses around the project’s immediate perimeter.

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