California-based Richland Communities will bring its experience delivering large master-planned communities to Lake County as the new owner of 550 acres in the Wolf Branch Innovation District just outside of Mount Dora.
Richland acquired the properties through a series of six transactions in late December totaling $24.8 million. The sales transacted the same day the developer closed on 370 acres in Groveland with entitlements for up to 740 homes and a village core under the city’s Hamlet designation.
The largest tracts include the approximately 298-acre site known as Summer Lake-Grace Groves, south of SR 46, which sold for $10.57 million, and the 215-acre Sorrento LLC site, north of SR 46, which sold for $9.8 million. Daryl Carter, president of Maury L. Carter & Associates, brokered all of the sales and also was the seller of the Sorrento property.
“We have a perfect storm driving growth. Central Florida is on fire,” Carter said. “We’re a job-producing machine. We have good leadership, and the results are obvious.”
Summer Lake-Grace Groves comprises seven parcels just north of the Orange County line. It’s part of the Wolf Branch Innovation District Planned Unit Development approved by Lake County in 2016. The sellers received mass grading permit approvals in 2020 from the St. Johns River Water Management District for the 240 acres and west of the Wekiva Parkway (S.R. 453). The conceptual master plan approved by Lake County and the city of Mount Dora entitles the PUD for a mix of uses, including industrial and warehousing, multifamily residential, medical office and commercial. It even reserves 20 acres for a college campus.
The Grace Groves property sold for less than half of the listed price of nearly $24 million. Carter said the sellers were anxious to close the transaction before the end of 2021 out of concern that Congress would change the tax code in 2022. They even offered Richland $10 million in seller-financing to close the deal.
The parcels east of the Wekiva Parkway spur (S.R. 453) are designated for single-family residential development, according to the marketing materials.
Richland Communities plans, develops and delivers master-planned communities and mixed-use projects. In Orlando, the company developed Southchase and Maitland Summit. More recently, the company sought approval for a 460-home subdivision in Minneola. Richland Vice President Matt Young declined to comment on the firm’s plans for the Mount Dora land.
The 215 acres north of the interchange have a future land use of Rural Transition and Regional Office. Maury Carter & Associates bought the land as an investment 2015, according to Carter. Carter said the development of the employment center is an indication of the rapid growth of Central Florida and Lake County in particular.
“You have a county in Florida, Lake County, with leadership that has a vision for growth in the area and the growth of the employment center,” Carter said. “This is the logical place for growth. It follows a logical pattern. We’re not putting an employment center in a swamp. This is the logical place for development to occur, to create a place where people can live, work, shop and play.”
Mount Dora has a population of 15,142, according to 2021 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Mount Dora Employment Center was planned as a hub of economic and employment growth on approximately 900 acres along the Parkway expansion. The area was conceived in 2004 by a partnership between Lake County and the city of Mount Dora as a means of bringing high-paying jobs and new housing to a region being activated by the construction of S.R. 453 (Mount Dora Connector), Wekiva Parkway and expansion of S.R. 46. The widening and extension of Round Lake Road in the district is also key component in the road network. It will be completed in 2023.
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.