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A view of the front of 1884 Restaurant and Bar, in downtown Eustis.
A view of the front of 1884 Restaurant and Bar, in downtown Eustis. (provided)

Local realtor Leigh Ann Pippin signed a two-year purchase agreement in 2014 to buy a cavernous brick building in downtown Eustis that was a bit down in the heels.

On Sept. 1, her LLC affiliate closed on the building, which in the interim has become a hopping steakhouse restaurant famous for hand-crafted cocktails and prime cuts of beef.

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Dubbed 1884 Restaurant and Bar after the year the building was built at 12 East Magnolia Ave., the 10,400-square-foot former department store has become a center for celebrations in town, with space at the bar hard to find on a Friday night.

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"Downtown is doing great.... we are very busy (at 1884), we have come into our season already," Pippin told GrowthSpotter. "We have great traffic. The city has done a great job of helping by bringing people downtown."

The investment is the latest example of a steady growth in redevelopment interest for downtown Eustis real estate. The city government is helping to facilitate the sale of a former 4.8-acre hospital site in the heart of downtown to create even more synergy, and has developed business-friendly policies to draw more investors downtown.

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Pippin paid $595,000 for the property, according to Lake County records, a bargain compared to its last qualified sale in 2005 for $800,000.

She financed the purchase with a five-year balloon mortgage promissory note for $700,000 to the trustee of the Ward J. Griner QTIP Trust C., according to county property records.

The city's economic development director, Tom Carrino said the restaurant has been a good addition to downtown.

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"1884 Restaurant and Bar has been extremely successful, and we are very pleased that the business owners have decided to make this additional investment in our downtown," he said. "We believe the purchase of the 1884 building is evidence of a thriving real estate environment in Downtown Eustis."

A number of other restaurants have begun to repopulate the downtown. Tilley's Tavern & Grill on the corner of Magnolia and Eustis Street, a recent addition, is doing well at the busy corner.

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Maria's Latin Diner at the corner of Eustis Street and Magnolia Avenue is another addition. Sol De Mexico, which has been in business for several years, is also doing well, along with Wine Cellers Uncorked on Magnolia.

In an effort to repopulate downtown with visitors, the city regularly has street parties and car shows. It also created an entertainment district in downtown where alcoholic beverages can be carried around town on the weekend at specific times and special conditions.

The city describes the Entertainment District as "designed to create an opportunity to offer a variety of amenities to the public in a convenient physical location which promotes the downtown and city, fosters a mutual relationship among downtown merchants and encourage private development of entertainment facilities which enhance and complement the use of the public facilities."

Teresa Burney can be reached at 352-455-1955 or at Teresaburney4@gmail.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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