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ORLANDO-Recession or not, Lake County is gearing for an economic rally in 2004 by approving two long-delayed, separate projects planned for a total 2,500 new homes and an estimated 500,000 sf of retail and commercial space.

The buildout value of both ventures will be about $1 billion, area brokers and construction industry estimators familiar with comparable ventures, tell GlobeSt.com.

In the northeast end of the county, Foothills of Mount Dora LLC, the developer of an 11-year-old, planned mixed-use project 28 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando, expects to break ground in 2004 on a 968-acre tract that will eventually hold 1,000 homes, 180,000 sf of retail and commercial space and an 18-hole championship golf course in rural Tangerine, FL, just outside the Mount Dora, FL boundary.

In south Lake County, the hottest commercial/residential/retail hub for the past two years, Center Lake Properties has the green light for an estimated 1,500 homes and an unspecified amount of commercial on three tracts totaling 730 acres.

Lake County commissioners this week ignored pleas by Clermont, FL city and school board officials to delay the south county projects until still further studies could be made on the three tracts sized at 120 acres, 160 acres and 450 acres at Harwood and Marsh Roads near heavily trafficked U.S. 27.

Lennar Homes of Miami has a contract to build a retirement community on the 450-acre parcel. The land has been approved for the construction of a maximum three homes per acre. County staffers, however, estimate the final density count by the developer will be about 2.3 homes per acre. Clermont officials are reviewing a proposal to annex the area and collect taxes if it can provide additional water service to the newly planned subdivisions.

In the Foothills of Mount Dora project, residents scored a major win when they convinced elected officials to hold the net density to one home per acre. The new homes will be priced from $200,000 to $400,000, Warner Peacock, managing partner of Foothills of Mount Dora LLC, has told Lake County commissioners.

About 285 acres on the 968-acre tract will be reserved for future development.

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