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ORLANDO-Reasonably priced land and pro-development local governments are behind an unprecedented wave of planned commercial, retail and residential developments in a two-county area which combined have a permanent population of only 300,000.

Lake County is 30 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando. Sumter County, adjoining Lake, is 45 miles away. The projects fall among seven of Lake County’s 14 municipal governments.

An estimated two million sf of commercial and retail will complement 27,896 acres of planned projects totaling 58,216 residences, according to projects previously announced. The bulk of the ventures will be built within a 10-year timeframe, local planners project. Some undertakings are 20-year-buildouts.

“The key element in all this growth is going to be the degree of cooperation among the various cities involved,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT, Winter Park, FL, tells GlobeSt.com. “Many of those cities have a track record of less than full cooperation with each other because each local government wants to custom-tailor commercial growth to best fit its needs and residents.”

The largest mixed-use enterprise coming off the drawing boards is the 11,700-acre, 32,000-home expansion of the Villages in Sumter County. Still in the planning stage is the 3,400-acre, 7,500-residential/commercial project proposed near Leesburg, FL by Pruitt/Smoak Properties.

Other large ventures planned are Tuscany Ridge/Hillcrest Country Club, 2,000 acres, 799 homes; Heritage Hills, 1,850 acres, 4,000 homes; Sugarloaf Mountain, 1,434 acres, 2,000 homes; and Harbor Hills expansion, 1,000 acres, 1,330 homes.

On the retail side, Jacksonville, FL-based Regency Centers is developing the 14-acre East Towne Center. YOLO Land Development Group of Clermont, FL plans to build the 23-acre Magnolia Center. Both projects, expected to be built before 2005, are in south Lake County on opposite sides of State Road 50 at County Road 455.

At the southern end of U.S. 27 near U.S. 192–the road to Walt Disney World–Greater Homes of Orlando plans to break ground within the next 12 months on Orange Tree Village, a 190-acre, multi-phased venture comprised of 665 townhomes and single-family residences, 16 acres of commercial, retail and office and a community park.

One of the first projects expected to surface by spring 2003 is the Cagan Town Center in Clermont whose immediate customer base will be residents in Cagan’s 1,000 adjoining apartment units and 8,000 homes within a six-mile radius.

Near Cagan’s development is the planned 20-acre Glenbrook Plaza that will front the Glenbrook subdivision at U.S. 27 and Glenwood Boulevard. “All of these projects are going to succeed because there just isn’t enough commercial development here yet to support the number of planned homes,” an independent Lake County planning consultant tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “They’re planting gold seeds.”

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