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Lake County Developments

Eustis gets bids from two Lake County developers for downtown Waterman site

A pair of local developers with extensive ties to Lake County are bidding for the right to purchase the former Florida Hospital Waterman site in downtown Eustis.

City Manager Tom Carrino will head a committee to review the responses to the city’s Request For Qualifications to determine which developer to choose for the project. The committee meetings will be held publicly.

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G3 Development partnered with C2 Construction to form the G3 C2 LLC for this project. Gerry Guenther, with G3 and Derrick Wallace with C2 are the managing members of the LLC.

Cagan Management Group, Inc. out of Clermont, also responded to the solicitation for the project, which encompasses 4.8 acres, or three city blocks identified by the city in 2008 as a “Catalyst Site” within a qualified opportunity zone.

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The Community Redevelopment Agency purchased the property in September 2020. It previously received a proposal for development from Orlando developers Adam Wonus and Nancy Rossman, but after considerable review of the plan, which included apartments, a food hall, commercial space and a hotel, the City Commission opted to seek other proposals.

That was the latest setback for what would have been a $65.7 million revitalization project on the property, which the city deemed a blighted area that is ripe for redevelopment to help the city stimulate other development in the area, create jobs and increase property taxes.

Neither G3 C2 LLC nor Cagan Management submitted full-blown site plan proposals with their RFQ, opting to wait to see which developer is chosen, then work with the city and its residents on what would be best suited for the site.

Carrino said the committee has not yet finalized a meeting date to review the RFQs. The committee will include Economic Development Director Al Latimer, Public Works Director Rick Gierok, Development Services Director Mike Lane and Finance Director Mike Shephard. A member of the city commission may also sit on the committee. “We’ll find out if there will be a commissioner on the committee, then coordinate calendars,” Carrino said. “The initial meeting may be the only meeting we need,” but a decision is expected within a few weeks.

“The RFQ was to show who is the most qualified team,” said Austin Guenther, project manager for G3 Development and a member of the Mount Dora City Council. “We needed to show the ability to get financing and pull off the project and we do have the relationship with lenders to do that.” He said G3 opted to partner with C2 since both companies have a good amount of private development experience and similar ideas on what is right for the downtown central business district.

“We thought we could put together a great team to assist the city leadership and include the citizens,” Guenther said.

Already, G3 has a large parcel across from the former Waterman Hospital site that it transformed into a high-end medical park. “Over the past 21 or so years, it has added about $100 million of development to that complex,” Guenther said. Encompass Health is putting in a 51,000-square-foot post-acute rehabilitation hospital, which he said will be another significant contributor to the city’s property tax base.

“The attraction of this project is that it is very rare to find three or more acres of developable land in a downtown area,” Guenther said. “Being able to go into the City Commission and see the receptiveness toward bringing in private help for their vision got us the most interested. Usually, you find a piece of property based on land-use maps and what you think would go best there. With this, we get to work directly with the city in revitalizing the entirety of its downtown. We think we have put together a really good team that has a lot of experience and it’s a unique opportunity to work with a very open-minded government and commission.”

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Jeffrey Cagan, with Cagan Management Group, said his company also has built in the area, as well as in downtown Tavares and Mount Dora. Cagan Management constructed Atwater Apartments behind Waterman Hospital and is working on a few other projects in the surrounding cities. “We have Cagan Crossings in south Lake County with multi-use buildings and apartments,” he said. It has a town center with apartments above.

“I looked at this site for the past many years as the city has tried to do something with it,” Cagan said. “It has interesting potential, so we decided to file the RFQ. My goal would be retail and commercial with apartments above, something we do pretty well already. I am not sure how deep the retail market is.”

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