When Jacqueline and Wendell Husebo looked at downtown Eustis they saw a potential haven for Millennials, the 20-to-30-somethings who crave homes where they can walk to restaurants, bars and scenic views.
The downtown offers brick streets, historic buildings, a growing number of restaurants and, as a piece de la resistance, a sprawling lakefront that the city is in the middle of sprucing up and redesigning.
So when the mother and son heard through the grapevine that the historic Eustis Iron Block building on Bay Street was for sale, they jumped at the chance to buy the stately 13,000-square foot building, which dates to 1900.
“I think Eustis is ready for (a revitalization),” said Jacqueline. “It has been a little brother to Mount Dora and Tavares in the past.”
WJ Capital, the pair’s LLC, bought the building at 113 N. Bay St for $600,000 from Kathryn C. Montgomery, an artist who had her studio in the building at one time. The most recent sale before that was for $125,000 in 1994, according to Lake County property records.
Proving their thesis that Eustis could be a Millennial hot spot, all nine apartments in the building’s upstairs were already leased to young people. The soaring ceilings give some units views of the lake across the street.
Downstairs are three deep shop fronts, one with a four-year-lease tenant and the other two available for lease (1,540 square feet each). Wendell is thinking a micro-brewery would be perfect for one space.
“That would enhance the social life and culture in Eustis, and bring something to the community,” he said. “Millennials bring youth and new life to communities.”
For the other space, the pair is “open to people who are creative, and we will work with them on the build-out,” Wendell said..
The Husebos are busy making plans to freshen up the building’s landscaping and the apartments upstairs with better lighting, restoring hardwood floors and taking out old carpeting.
“We want to make it a pleasant space for those coming home,” Jacqueline said.
Jacqueline, CEO of the family’s other business, Husebo Advertising & Public Relations, Inc., with her husband Lanny Husebo, will be handling the marketing.
Jacqueline is the daughter of Joe Swiderski, the original developer of Lake Square Mall and its environs, has development in her bloodline so she feels at home with technical parts of being a land owner and re-developer.
Eustis city officials are delighted with new plans for the old building.
“The building is obviously a very prominent building in our town,” said Tom Carrino, Eustis economic development director. “It is right on our main street and we are excited that there is some real opportunity there for someone. Lakefront Ferran Park is right across the street and we are making an investment to make Ferran Park more attractive, and also to generate activity."