Clermont hears proposals for downtown lakefront property

Three developers this week at a city workshop, presented ideas to council members about what they’d like to build on the last “good-sized” piece of land the city owns in downtown Clermont – and it’s lakeside.

CLERMONT – Three developers this week at a city workshop pitched projects to council members to be built on the last “good-sized” piece of land the city owns in downtown Clermont – and it’s lakeside.

All three answered the call for a Request For Proposal the city put out in November 2019, were ranked by an evaluation committee in February, but were just now heard because of delays associated with coronavirus.

Residents flooded the city council chambers to hear what the developers had to say. Some were forced to sit in the hall because of social distancing guidelines. Additionally, Mayor Gail Ash called for no public comment on the matter until a regular council meeting since the workshop was strictly for information gathering.

First to speak was Richard Levey, a building consultant for the city.

“The goal is to really maximize the economic impact to the downtown and advance the goals of the (Clermont downtown) master plan,” Levy said during a presentation. “This site was identified as one of the more important opportunities for activating economic activity on the waterfront between Victory Pointe and the core of downtown along the waterfront and it was viewed as a unique opportunity downtown, as a city-owned parcel, to partner with the private sector to build perhaps a one-of-a-kind development.”

The RFP was the second for the property, but the first one about two years ago had only called for a restaurant and did not lead to a build-out.

The property, overlooking Lake Minneola, is located on Osceola Street just west of Lilly’s on the Lake and across the street from Epic Cycle, where earlier this month, its owner proposed building a 50-room, five-story boutique hotel that has yet to be approved by the council.

The first developer who pitched his project, ranked number one, is Darren Johnson with Victory Coast LLC. Johnson also owns the Clermont Brewing Company and two other properties in downtown Clermont off West Ave. reserved for a spa and hotel.

According to the proposal for the .9-acres on the table, Johnson is looking to build what he’s dubbed the Victory Coast Event Center; a three-story, 9,000-square-foot lakefront rental facility for weddings, parties, conferences, trade shows, meetings and more.

The center would include a rooftop restaurant – the partially open air Sky Deck Lounge – that would be open to the public – plus boat slips and a landing slip for seaplanes, allowing for land, sea and air access.

The second bidder is Patrick Bianchi of VP Development Enterprises LLC., also the developer of the nearby Montrose Market, who proposed a two-story, mixed use project called “The Boardwalk,” ranked second.

The first story would consist of 2,700-square-feet of shops and restaurants and a lakefront boardwalk to accommodate entertainment, strolls and outside seating for the public. The second floor would be reserved for a still undetermined number of short term rental units with kitchenettes.

The third bidder, Ken Polsinelli of the Winter Park-based Peacock Capital LLC, proposed purchasing the property for $240,000 to develop a three-story, multi-family, urban infill apartment building, ranked third, consisting of 24 one- and two-bedroom units targeted at households earning between $40,000 to $60,000 annually.

The apartment complex, as presented, would not include any type of shops or event rental areas but they would offer overnight boat slips and hidden storage kayak compartments for guests.

Polsinelli also mentioned a mural to be painted on the east side of the building promoting Clermont’s sports-mecca image.

After the presentations, council members discussed the proposals but did not make any decisions on which one to move forward.

During the meeting, Councilman Jim Purvis said he’d like to see the city retain ownership of the land regardless of what project was decided on and Tim Bates said he wanted to hear from the public about what they’d like to see built there.

In conclusion, Mayor Gail Ash asked staff to schedule a special meeting to consider the proposals, seek public comment.

City Attorney Dan Mantzaris said the process would require two future meetings, one for the public hearing and one to negotiate a contract with the council’s pick, if so desired.