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Tavares seeks help finding the right developer for downtown block

Outlined in red, the block in Tavares targeted for development features frontage on E. Ruby Street, right across from Wooton Park.
Outlined in red, the block in Tavares targeted for development features frontage on E. Ruby Street, right across from Wooton Park.(Lake County Property Appraiser)

Last Fall, the City of Tavares asked developers to send in proposals to redevelop a 1.53-acre section of a downtown block at Main Street, situated between Rockingham and New Hampshire, into a vital pedestrian plaza that might also include stores, restaurants and, perhaps, apartments.

"(The proposal request) yielded interest, inquiries, phone calls, and emails, but nobody actually submitted a proposal for the development," said Bob Tweedie, the city's economic development director.

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Now Tavares is ready to take the next step and solicit professional help to find the right developer for the site, dubbed "Tavares Square."  Sometime in mid-January, the city plans to send out requests for commercial land brokers to package and market the property, with the goal of finding the right buyer for the parcel.

"We are looking for a firm that shows they have the quality, the track record, and ability to attract the right developer," Tweedie told GrowthSpotter.

The city's original request for proposals from Fall 2014 is still available online, and can offer developers an idea of what Tavares is looking for in a new vision for the property.

Tavares bought the parcel from Lake County and demolished the building, which was previously used as office space for Lake County. Since then, the county offices were moved into the county's main buildings on the west side of town, leaving a space the city sees as having a lot of potential for its downtown.

The parcel sits on Main Street, yet offers views of Lake Dora. Tavares has added a lot of other amenities to that side of town in recent years, including a pavilion on the lake that stays booked with weddings and other events.

It has also built a train station where trains, including one historic steam engine, depart for Mount Dora to the east and to other more rural locations, such as farms and pumpkin patches, south of Lake Dora.

Tavares, which has dubbed itself the Seaplane City, has also added amenities for float planes that come to town for various events. Several hotels have also popped up with lake views. And there are several new restaurants open.

The request for proposals asks that the development plan for the city block do a lot. It calls for a pedestrian plaza defined by mixed-use building, while still connecting Main Street to the waterfront and reinforcing the Entertainment District of restaurants and parks on the lakefront.

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But "nothing is set in stone," Tweedie said. "We want (proposals) to be as open as possible."

Teresa Burney can be reached at 352-455-1955 or at teresaburney4@gmail.comHave a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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