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The new CarMax auto retailer will be built on lot number 1, fronting on State Road 50. Lot 2 is zoned for apartments, and it's just outside of the Clermont city limits, so the moratorium doesn't apply.
The new CarMax auto retailer will be built on lot number 1, fronting on State Road 50. Lot 2 is zoned for apartments, and it's just outside of the Clermont city limits, so the moratorium doesn't apply. (Lake County Property Appraiser)

A Winter Park partnership has acquired a major parcel on State Road 50 near Clermont and has sold half the land to auto retailer CarMax while retaining the remainder for an apartment project.

East Clermont Village LLC, a partnership led by Tad Dixon of First Team Commercial of Winter Park, bought 50 acres at 16731 State Road 50 from a New York City developer on Oct. 10 for $7.25 million. The same day, the partnership flipped the southern half of the parcel to CarMax Auto Superstores for $7.08 million.

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“I know the county well, and I knew there was a scarcity of large development tracts along (Highway) 50,” Dixon told GrowthSpotter. “It was priced at a point where we could invest in it and make some money. It was a good deal.”

Richmond, Va.-based CarMax gets a prime commercial plot in the thick of a popular auto retail district fronting S.R. 50, with Dixon’s company acting as project manager. First Team Commercial has partnered with many other car dealers, including the nearby Don Mealey Chevrolet, Subaru South Orlando, and out-of-state projects.

The east elevation of the CarMax Superstore being proposed for 16731 State Road 50.
The east elevation of the CarMax Superstore being proposed for 16731 State Road 50. (Lake County)

“We can confirm that CarMax has identified the Clermont area as a good fit for our current growth plan. Because we are a publicly traded company, it is too early for me to provide additional details,” spokeswoman Nicole Rappaport said in an email to GrowthSpotter.

CarMax sells multiple brands and is currently rolling out what it calls “an omni-channel experience,” allowing customers to complete transactions entirely from home, in the store, or in a combination of both. It has more than 200 stores nationwide.

The partnership, meanwhile, keeps 25 acres zoned for multifamily housing north of the CarMax site, bordering a popular bike trail and within walking distance of the East Towne Center and its Publix anchor. Dixon said it was too early in the process to offer details of the size of the apartment complex or individual units.

The land is currently in unincorporated Lake County, which could give the developers an advantage in the area’s tight rental housing market. In September, the Clermont City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on multifamily construction in the city, citing complaints of heavy traffic, road deterioration and other problems that have sprung from a 35 percent population growth over the past eight years.

A year ago, the city was talking about adding density bonuses to encourage affordable housing. Now Clermont has a 6-month moratorium on all new multifamily development.

Clermont provides water and sewer service to the parcel, which means it could be annexed into the city. County approval of the developer’s plans would likely make it grandfathered and free to build.

Dixon said he hopes to break ground sometime next year. “We think the property is very attractive as an apartment complex,” he said.

Documents filed with Lake County indicate CarMax intends to build a superstore with five structures: A retail service building of 4,309 square feet that will eventually be repurposed into a 39,621-square-foot production building; a 4,909-square-foot sales building; a 3,696-square-foot auction building; a 1,197-square-foot presentation building; and a 936-square-foot car wash.

The superstore will have 272 parking spots for sales and display of vehicles; 410 spots for employees and customers; and 1,139 spots for staging vehicles.

Dixon said as project manager, his company hopes to begin mass-grading the site soon. First Team Commercial is not a construction company, however; the company is helping to assemble a project team.

Dixon said his company has “key relationships” within the retail auto industry. “There’s a process car dealers have to go through to get their plans approved by the manufacturer,” he said. “Car dealers are companies where the principals want to focus on running a business, and let somebody else deal with the hassle and focus on the project.”

The civil engineer on the project is DRMP Inc. of Gainesville. The developer is CenterPoint Integrated Solutions of Evergreen, Colo. The landscape architect is Manley Design LLC of Gainesville.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to correctly reflect that First Team Commercial is based out of Winter Park. A previous version of the story erroneously stated it was based in Lake Wales.

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Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at Newsroom@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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