Venetian Isle mixed-use medical campus in Leesburg expands

The development team behind a 50-acre medical mixed-use campus next to Leesburg Regional Medical Center has just added another 4.2 acres to expand across Dixie Avenue.

Tony Benge, with Benge Development, told GrowthSpotter the partners paid $725,000 to the Lake County School District for the former Dabney Elementary site on the 600 block of Dixie, also known as S.R. 44.

"We're looking at a small retail and service providers to have food available to the hospital employees," Benge said. "There's just nothing out there right now."

The smaller tract will be a continuation of the Venetian Isle campus and will be known as Venetian Isle North, he said. The main campus is approved for hotel, assisted living facility, retail, medical offices and apartments, and it would be connected directly to the hospital via Medical Plaza Drive.

Benge and the rest of the development team, which includes Polk County physician Hasan Mousli and Tampa attorney Gus Kaloti, have filed mass grading permits with the St. Johns River Water Management District for the entire site and environmental permits for the first phase. Benge said the first project to go vertical will be the 105-key Marriott TownePlace Suites.

The 4-story, $14 million hotel will have views of Lake Harris, and the design will be similar to the TownePlace Suites which recently broke ground in Orlando's SoDo district, across from the Orlando Health campus.

"It's (Marriott's) preferred brand to locate next to hospitals," Benge said. "We have a great partner with Naples Hotel Group, which will be managing the hotel."

Phase 1 also would include a 3.1-acre commercial lot with approximately 20,000 square feet of retail and dining uses at the northwest corner of the site and the first medical office building (MOB). 

Benge said the partners are negotiating with a well-known medical practice to occupy the 3-story, 30,000- to 40,000-square-foot MOB. The building is expected to cost approximately $10 million.

Mousli, a practicing neurologist, and other physician-investors are also expected to locate offices within the campus. The medical office portion of the site plan comprises 8.8 acres and is approved for 93,000 square feet. Benge said he expects the balance of the medical and retail uses to cost another $30 million.

"We see it building out over several years," Benge said. "We want to set the stage for a really nice, modern medical campus."

Another 9.2 acres is designated for a 250-bed ALF estimated to cost $35-40 million. Benge said the partners are negotiating with several potential operators -- some who emphasize independent living units and others who specialize in assisted living and memory care services. He said their goal is to capture a segment of the market that may be priced out of the luxury ALF communities in and around The Villages.

"Right now we're doing studies to determine whether there's more demand for independent or assisted-living," he said. 

Finally, the southern half of the property is approved for 261 multifamily units. The development partner is finalizing its due diligence and could be announced as early as April. The apartment complex would add another $35-40 million investment to the campus. A large pond would provide buffering to the residential neighbors to the south.

While the entire 50-acre site would be graded in one phase, Benge said the plan calls for starting utility and drainage work on the apartment site about 90 days after breaking ground on the hotel. Tampa-based Leaders Engineering is the civil engineer.  

The City of Leesburg is planning to build a new community center nearby at Venetian Gardens Park. The center is designed to maximize views and make the spot even more of a destination for events and recreation. In addition, there will be two pad-ready restaurant sites along the Lake Harris shoreline with docks and public walkways. 

The Venetian Isle team have multiple projects in active development in the region. Benge is currently assembling a 100-plus acres at the northwest corner of state roads 429 and 441 in Apopka. Plans include 1,000 apartments, mixed-use commercial, a hotel, an assisted-living facility, a YMCA and a park.

Mousli and Kaloti, meanwhile, have two mixed-districts underway in Winter Haven. Preserve at Lake Ashton is an approved Planned Unit Development on 370 acres, entitled for 1,700 dwelling units, an ALF,  a mix of commercial uses and a community farm. The duo also plans Preserve at Lake Ashton North on another 83 acres, also planned for a mix of residential and commercial uses.  

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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