TAVARES, FL-A 280,000-sf office building in most metro hubs is not considered extra large but in Lake County, with a total population of only 260,000 permanent residents (750,000 in the winter), the planned $27-million, 150,000-sf expansion of the 130,000-sf Downtown courthouse building here will make it the largest structure of its kind in the county.

County commissioners have approved $4 million for initial architectural and engineering work for the addition which will include a five-story, 900-space parking garage on West Main Street. A construction start date is being determined but area building industry sources tell GlobeSt.com the work will probably start at year end 2005 at the 14-year-old, four-story existing structure.

Commissioners also approved an initial appraisal for an undetermined cost on 230 acres south of Clermont it may buy for a government annex building in the south end of the county. Orlando and Orange County jointly own the 230 acres whose price also hasn’t been determined.

Area industrial brokers, however, tell GlobeSt.com the land, near the scenic Lake Louisa State Park, probably won’t sell for less than $15,000 per acre or a total of approximately $3.5 million. The Clermont site is 25 miles south of the main courthouse in Tavares.

Although the proposed south Lake County government building is still being debated by commissioners, elected officials agreed another property, the 35-year-old Lake County Expo Center and Fairgrounds in Eustis, should be demolished and replaced with a modern, air-conditioned facility with bleachers, a stage and a concession area to attract larger events.

The cost for the new Expo Center and Fairgrounds hasn’t been determined but the county will be using part of the projected $18 million from tourist taxes and library and park-impact fees to help pay for the project.

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