LEESBURG, FL-Elected officials today iron out plans to accommodate the largest commercial real estate venture ever proposed to taxpayers in this 100-year-old city of 15,624 residents, 50 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando.

The $1 billion, 3,334-acre, 20-year project being proposed by Clearwater, FL surgeon-developer Clayton Pruitt encompasses four million sf of industrial; 1.3 million sf of retail/office; 10,102 single-family, duplex and triplex shelter units; and 5,320 multifamily units.

The project is one of the most ambitious in the entire state. Developers of all stripes are monitoring the project’s governmental screening steps closely because participation could spell profits for all of the players.

Leesburg, a laid-back city known nationally for its 100 fishing lakes, outdoor camps and rural beauty, has become a commercial hot spot in the past 10 years as national distributors, retailers and multifamily developers discover its growing road network, pro-development government and proximity to Orlando.

A new Florida Turnpike interchange is expected to break ground in first quarter 2002 at County Road 470 not far from the pasture. Completion is targeted for 2003. How much of a magnet the interchange will be to the proposed Pruitt project is unknown but local brokers are betting the interchange will be a huge plus.

The Pruitt ranch is just outside the city limits of Leesburg near the hamlet of Okahumpka, FL (Pop. 332).

The project is also being watched closely by private investment groups anxious to get a piece of the action. They know that action will come quickly when the cattle pasture land is carved up and sold in tracts at prices considerably lower than comparable land in nearby Orlando, Seminole or Osceola Counties, brokers intimate with the project tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

“I’m guessing $50,000 per acre or thereabouts ($1.15 per sf),” a longtime Leesburg cattle rancher tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

For example, land at Lake County’s C. Christopher Ford Industrial park near Groveland, FL, 25 miles away, goes for $35,000 per acre (80 cents per sf) and there isn’t much left, county officials confirm to GlobeSt.com. Comparable dirt in metro Orlando can’t be touched for less than $100,000 per acre ($2.30 per sf), brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

Pruitt could not be reached by GlobeSt.com at publication deadline for comment on future development plans and priorities. But local subcontractors who hope to latch on to some of the business tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity the developer plans to sell off the pasture dirt to third parties. They would either develop the project themselves or flip the land and sell it to fourth and fifth parties for ultimate development.

The city of Leesburg is in the driver’s seat on the entire undertaking because elected officials voted in July to annex the pasture land and bring it into city boundaries.

“That was a smart move because that way the city will be able to control the growth of this project,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Arvida Realty Services Commercial Division, Winter Park, FL, tells GlobeSt.com.

Besides controlling the project’s progress, the city would receive annual property taxes of $181,687 in the first phase alone from 2004 to 2006. From 2006 to 2010, projected property tax revenue would be $609,000. Annual utility revenue is estimated at $818,652.

There would also be surcharges and franchise fees roughly amounting to $112 the developer would the city on each new shelter unit built.

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