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Former custom homebuilder plans new type of assisted living product in Leesburg

Marked on the map are 10.93 acres on U.S. 27 in Leesburg where a former homebuilder turned developer is planning a new type of assisted living facility.
Marked on the map are 10.93 acres on U.S. 27 in Leesburg where a former homebuilder turned developer is planning a new type of assisted living facility. (City of Leesburg)

The Leesburg City Commission will vote Monday on whether to rezone and annex 10.93 acres on U.S. 27 into the city at the request of a former homebuilder turned developer, who plans a new type of assisted living facility.

Tom. L. Hofmeister, president of Elderfire Lodges, is planning to build Red Maple Lodge, a 120,000-square-foot assisted living facility with memory care on the east side of U.S 27, near the intersection of C.R. 33.

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The development would house 100 residents in assisted living and 48 in memory care.

If approved, Hofmeister hopes to have Red Maple Lodge open in a year and a half. He has a general contractor on board: Collage Construction.

Hofmeister was a successful custom-home builder before he and a partner built three eye-catching assisted living facilities: Cranes View in Clermont, Osprey Lodge in Tavares and another in Stuart.

The pair parted ways about a year ago, leaving Hofmeister to start work on improving his assisted living model.

Hofmeister says the new Leesburg development will evolve his concept of what assisted living should be, beyond his earlier projects.

"The expectations of what we want in adult care is beyond what is being delivered today," Hofmeister said.

He added that his new community will be a commercial product that acts more like a house.

Hofmeister spent a lot of time interviewing residents of assisted living homes to find out what they would like to experience in assisted living.

"I took 100,000 notes and put them together and what we discovered from sitting with them is that they are extraordinarily brilliant and they are extra connected," he said. "We could see that we were leaving our 80- and 90-year olds out to pasture. There was a need to bring them back into the community."

Red Maple, with about half of its land dedicated as preserve wetlands because it has a little river running through it to Lake Harris, will have a huge back porch room overlooking the yard where residents can see a natural setting. The space will also be used by the community, Boy Scout groups, theaters, and other community groups, but the caveat for use is that the residents must be included.

In other assisted living facilities the residents enjoyed helping Boy Scouts and others with their projects, he said.

"I've learned jn my research what the elders really need was security, and security comes from giving back. So we create security by creating an event where they can give back," Hofmeister said.

Hofmeister said he hopes to expand Elderfire's concept beyond Lake County.

He contracted to buy the Red Maple property because he had received calls from elders in Leesburg asking if he could build something similar to Osprey Lodge and Cranes View in the U.S. 27 area, where there are a number of retirement communities.

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Teresa Burney can be reached at 352-455-1955, or at teresaburney4@gmail.com.

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