When the new Florida Turnpike exit in Minneola is completed next year it will literally mark an "X" in the middle of The Hills of Minneola, unlocking the full development potential of a 1,650-acre parcel that's been waiting years for development to move north from Orlando into Lake County.
Almost a year ago the land's future seemed settled. The owners of the land, Family Dynamics Land Company of Leesburg, announced it had signed a purchase contract agreement with SouthStar Development Partners, a Coral Gables-based developer.
But now Family Dynamics spokesman Peter Strimenos says it is still shopping for a developer.
"It was under contract and now it's a different situation," Strimenos told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday. "We are farmers, we are not developers. We are looking for a quality developer.
"It's not about the money that is important to us," he continued. "I can tell you what is important to us. We want to be part of something that we can look back on and be proud of what we did."
"SouthStar (Development Partners) is still very interested. We still consider them one of our top choices," Strimenos said.
But Strimenos and his wife, whose citrus-growing family accumulated the land that nurtured orange groves before the 1980s freezes killed the trees, were touring the products of other developers near Naples recently.
"We are entertaining offers there," Strimenos said. "We looked at their high-end product and were impressed with the quality they do."
Strimenos said the family wants to be proud of the development that would transform Minneola. In addition to the nearly 4,000 homes, it is also approved for 3 million square feet of shops and 300 hotel rooms, along with restaurants, offices, medical services and two public schools.
"This will bring a lot of jobs," he said, considering the short-term construction work and projected business growth to serve new residential.
"This creates jobs for people in Lake County, an unbelievable amount," he said.
Strimenos said whatever developer he chooses will build one cohesive master plan. "There may be more than one builder but we want it to be one big community, that is what we are going for."
The family has also prioritized the addressing of environmental concerns: there are a number of endangered or threatened species on the high hilly land, including gopher turtles and sand skinks.
"We are very, very sensitive to environmental issues," he said.