Mount Dora’s Wolf Branch Innovation District is inching closer to manifesting an anticipated high amount of new commercial development, as intended.
According to an Environmental Resource Permit recently filed in the St. Johns River Water Management District, the southern portion of the district is being prepped to feature up to 20 pad-ready parcels consisting of a mix of educational, multifamily, medical office and commercial uses.
Currently, the nearly 240-acre property is made up of seven parcels that sit east of Round Lake Road and south of S.R. 46.
The section is part of a larger roughly 300-acre planned unit development called Summer Lake-Grace Groves, approved by Lake County in 2016.
The existing PUD is the only one within the district — meaning it may be the first to be developed, but the lead consultant on the project, Greg Beliveau with LPG Urban & Regional Planners, Inc., said the land still needs to be leveled and that process can take up to a year.
“The site looks like the surface of the moon,” Beliveau told GrowthSpotter. “We’re entering a restoration mitigation phase to bring the site to a redevelopment orientation.”
A conceptual master plan filed in the SJRWMD shows roughly 45 acres of the site will be dedicated to multifamily development across six different parcels.
Another 21.5 acres are designated for medical/office use on two separate parcels at the center of the property. The site plan also shows space for a future educational facility. Beliveau said the development team is working to renew a development agreement with Lake-Sumter State College to fill that space.
The parcels with educational uses collectively span about 20 acres. Additional uses within the property include commercial, office, industrial and recreational.
The Wolf Branch Innovation District was conceived in 2004 by a partnership between Lake County and the city of Mount Dora as a means to bring high-paying jobs and new housing to a region being activated by the construction of S.R. 453 (Wekiva Parkway) and expansion of S.R. 46.
Original plans called for creating an employment district that spanned 1,300 acres in unincorporated Lake County, but officials in both municipalities amended the plan to span 850 acres to ensure commercial developers target key areas that will support long-term commercial growth.
The land will need to be annexed into Mount Dora. City officials in Mount Dora confirmed no land has been annexed yet.
Beliveau said he’s waiting on Lake County and Mount Dora to work out the framework of their future land use policies and standards to allow development plans to run almost simultaneously with annexations.
“We’ve been dovetailing with both jurisdictions,” Beliveau said.
At total build-out, the WBID is projected to feature up to 2,560 multifamily units, 2.36 million square feet of industrial space, about 520,000 square feet of commercial space and 3.6 million square feet of “employment space,” which uses include, but is not limited to, research, education, clinical health care and professional services.
The district is bordered by the Lake/Orange county line to the south, Wolf Branch Road to the north and bisected by S.R. 46 and the newly-completed S.R. 453.
“Instead of people jumping on that parkway to go work, [Mount Dora and Lake County] want people staying in the city,” Beliveau said. “That way they’re driving to the employment center here and not somewhere else.”
In late 2018, Lake County was granted $2.5 million from the governor’s office to fund the widening and extension of Round Lake Road just past State Road 44. The roadway, which crosses a portion of the district, will be widened from two lanes to four lanes between Meadow land Drive in Orange County and Wolf Branch Road in Lake County.
The county was among five recipients of grant money issued from the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, which had allocated about $9 million that year. The economic development program funds projects that focus on infrastructure initiatives that attract businesses, create jobs and promote economic growth.