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Downtown Clermont lumber yard could turn into stores, restaurants, hundreds of apartments

CLERMONT, Fla. — For as long as anyone can remember, the lumber yard next to downtown Clermont has served the needs of community members building and renovating their homes and businesses.

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The family that owns the property has a new vision for the parcel: transforming a half-abandoned space into 392 apartments, plus 53 thousand square feet of commercial and office space.

The proposal would transform and greatly expand downtown Clermont, though not everyone is sold, especially on the apartments.

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David Wallace said his family filed the application in October after many conversations with the city. They passed their first hurdle Tuesday when the city agreed to vacate the road that runs through his planned district.

“We’ve known for decades this day would come, and finally the day is here,” he said. “We’re really excited about it.”

By many counts, the land is top-tier residential quality. It’s within walking distance of Main Street, directly on the bike path that runs to Winter Garden, and on the shore of a lake. It’s also adjacent to a city park.

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The additional retail space fulfills the desire of community leaders to see their downtown area grow, and the apartments give workers a place to live.

Wallace said he wanted to be a good steward to the town and a good neighbor to all who live, work or visit the downtown area.

The opposition to the apartments is in part unrelated to the project itself. Clermont has grown by an average of 17% for more than two decades, from 9,000 people to 46,000.

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Rolling hills and orange groves have been replaced by subdivisions and strip malls.

“They’re approving a lot of projects that just change the whole character of the area,” William Floyd, a retired principal, said. “The character of that area is what brought us here.”

Others, though, called the lumber yard an eyesore and said they were happy to see it go, even if they were worried about the number of apartment units and commuter traffic clogging roads.

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Wallace didn’t give a time frame for construction, only saying zoning was next in the process and he’d likely break ground six months after the city fully approves the project.

He said more details would be released soon.

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