Homebuilding giant Lennar is under contract for the residential portion of a massive Wellness Way mixed-use community in South Lake County that’s entitled for 1,850 residential units.
Clermont’s City Council unanimously approved the annexation, future land use and master plan this week for the 743-acre South Lake Crossing district across U.S. 27 from Lake Louisa and just northeast of the planned Olympus sports-themed community.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do putting in roadways and utilities, but the important thing is we can get started now,” said Jim Karr, a member of the ownership group.
The residential portion of the community is approved only for detached single family homes and townhomes, and it includes two gated neighborhoods. The lot widths range from 18 feet wide for the townhomes up to 70 feet wide for the detached single-family homes. The PUD identifies a 10-acre amenity site on Wellness Way, as well as numerous public and private parks.
“This will be an opportunity to participate in a regionally significant master plan, which is appealing for us,” Lennar Orlando Division President Brock Nicholas said. “We respect our land seller’s experience in Central Florida, and their poise while doing complex deals.”
The master plan designates 102 acres west of Hancock Road as Employment Center, a land use category that allows for a mix of offices, commercial and all types of residential development. The plan would cap the number of apartments at 350 units.
The project also designates 18.8 acres for neighborhood commercial uses, which include a grocery-anchored retail center and other complementary retail uses, for a max of 140,000 square feet.
Clermont City Manager Darren Gray said city and county leaders have been working with the ownership group for two years to ensure the project moves forward at the right time. “South Lake Crossing is a massive mixed-use project with a substantial combination of residential and commercial development planned, including half-a-million square feet of office space," he said. "This means many more opportunities for jobs, shops and restaurants in Clermont. Our economy continues to grow and our future is bright as we strategically expand south in the Wellness Way area.”
Karr said his company would keep all of the land west of Hancock Road, which entitled for commercial and employment use while selling the 469 acres approved for residential development to Lennar. The ownership group is in discussions with potential buyers for portions of the employment center tracts, but there are no firm deals yet.
“We’ve got a lot of irons in the fire now, and it’s all just starting to come together,” Karr said.
The PUD reserves 15 acres for a future charter school and 1.5 acres for a new fire station. But Karr said virtually all of the nonresidential uses would likely come after the first rooftops.
“Lennar is the big dog that will drive this project,” Karr said. “The contract is structured as two takedowns – with half the units in each phase. They’ll close on the first one when it’s ready to break ground.”
The next step will be to file preliminary subdivision plans, Karr said. The land planner and civil engineer is VHB, along with Hall Development Services as planning consultant. Shutts & Bowen is legal counsel.
Lennar submitted examples of housing product types for the townhomes and various lot sizes, but Nicholas said it was still early to discuss the development program specifics.
“There are a number of important infrastructure design and engineering steps yet to be accomplished, but there are smart, capable folks involved at the city and as neighboring landowners to cooperate and bring the plan to life,” he said.
The mostly rural U.S. 27 corridor of South Lake County is quickly filling in the development gaps between the Cagan Crossings area in Four Corners and downtown Clermont. Adjacent to the Wellness Way PUD, Olympus Sports & Entertainment Group owns 243 acres at U.S. 27 and Schofield Road.
Plans for Olympus call for up to 1,312 hotel rooms; 805 townhomes; 614 apartment units; 155,642 square feet of office space; 360,358 square feet of retail space and 345,283 square feet of medical office space that will feature spa services and holistic programs as well as centers that provide orthopedic injury diagnosis, rehabilitation services and physiology, nutrition and conditioning programs.
Meanwhile, the city has annexed the 55-acre corner tract, called “Clonts Corner,” and entitled it for up to 600 multifamily housing units and 152,000 square feet of commercial uses.
Karr said all of the landowners and developers will share the cost of building Wellness Way. “All of those areas need to be developed, because they all contribute right-of-way and impact fees,” he said.
The Central Florida Expressway Authority is also moving forward with plans for the Lake-Orange Connector, a new toll road south of Wellness Way that will connect S.R. 429 and Horizon West to U.S. 27 just south of Lake Louisa State Park.
Graves said the toll road is part of a larger road network that will improve circulation in the Four Corners region. “We’ll also be looking at two north-south roads – Hancock Road going south, which is a part of this project, as well as extending County Road 455 south.”