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WINTER HAVEN, FL-In a complex transaction, Washington, DC-based Trust For Public Land has contracted to buy 142 acres of the controversial 159-acre Cypress Gardens water sports attraction from majority owners Larry Maxwell and William Reynolds for $22 million, or $154,930 per acre. The site is 60 miles south of Downtown Orlando.

Orlando area industrial real estate brokers tell GlobeSt.com the price is believed to be $5 million more than Maxwell and Reynolds initially asked for the entire property after the 68-year-old attraction suddenly closed April 13 due to low attendance.

The trust has until Feb. 24 to complete a financing package for the property and to exercise an option to separately buy another 7.1 acres on Swann Point at the north end of the 37-acre botanical gardens component of the park.

But the trust itself has no plans to own Cypress Gardens, trust officials confirm to GlobeSt.com. “The trust’s plan from the beginning was to stop commercial and residential development at Cypress Gardens, a plan the owners had in mind after the park closed,” a member of the park’s support group tells GlobeSt.com.

After the trust closes on the deal in February, it first plans to sell development rights on the entire property to the state for an undetermined price and then sell title to the asset to an organization that will promise to operate Cypress Gardens as a non-profit venture.

Area brokers tell GlobeSt.com a potential deal-breaker in attracting a buyer for the property is the $5.4 million pending sales contract Maxwell and Reynolds have with an undisclosed buyer for 10 prime acres fronting Cypress Gardens Boulevard in front of the attraction. That portion was not part of the trust’s acquisition.

A spokesperson for Orlando timeshare developer David A. Siegel, one of the first to offer to save Cypress Gardens from commercial development, tells GlobeSt.com Siegel wouldn’t now be interested in buying the property from the trust if the 10 acres were allowed to be commercially developed.

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