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ORLANDO-Clermont, FL-based Arlington LLC and Carlson Commercial Builders Inc. have started clearing the former E.R. Jahna sand mine on State Road 50 on Groveland, FL’s city limits where Bella Fonte, a planned $150 million, 466-unit single-family and townhome community is planned, along with 250,000 sf of commercial.

Bella Fonte will look like a typical French village with apartments and offices located over shops. The project also may copy several of the features at Celebration, FL and Winter Park Village, eight miles north of Downtown Orlando. Those projects are generally regarded as textbook examples of the new urban village look.

The project will take Clermont developer Dan Hessburg seven years to complete. But even if he doesn’t have the so-called critical mass of population that all comparable projects demand, he isn’t overly worried on where the residents and tenants will come from in an area where Groveland, a pioneer citrus town, has only 3,100 permanent residents.

The city is 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando and, with Clermont, serves as two of Orlando’s many commuting communities.

“Half of the project is already sold,” Hessburg says. “The biggest job is moving dirt” at the mine, a $1.5 million assignment that will take 1 ½ years to complete, he says. Landscaping that will include the planting of 4,000 native trees is budgeted for another $1.5 million.

The lake he hopes to create will be 250 acres in diameter and 30 feet deep, adequate for water-skiing, wake-boarding and other active water sports.

The job doesn’t faze him. He has tackled challenging projects in the past. Among his clients are Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Sea World and the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Hessburg is from Hawaii. He moved to Florida when he was 21 and honed his contracting skills working on a mix of projects at Orlando’s theme parks.

“One of my concerns, and those of my associates right now, is the fair pricing of lots at the Chain of Lakes,” Hessburg tells GlobeSt.com. “I’ve had developers come to me already, offering to pick up lakefront lots for $200,000 to $500,000 per lot,” he says. “If they’re worth that much now, how much will they be worth seven years from now?”

Another decision Hessburg has to make is on the project’s density. “I’ve got one home per acre right now but there’s always the possibility I could get two or three homes per acre,” the developer says. “We’ll have to wait awhile and see what other options there are.”

The initial development plan calls for 146 mainly lakefront homes in the $250,000 to $1 million-plus range; and 320 zero-lot line homes and apartments starting at $150,000.

When the project is completed, the windfall for tiny Groveland will be an annual tax base of $800,000 and development impact fees of $1.3 million, unprecedented for the rural community.

Henry Fishkind, an Orlando economics consultant, is guiding Hessburg with his marketing plan. Geologist Jim Jamal of Nodarse and Associates Inc., Winter Park and Randy Austin of Florida Environmental are the other project consultants.

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