LEESBURG – Cray another hitch in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Townhouse construction on the site of Lee Adult High School, which was slated to begin in late spring or early summer, has yet to begin.
The wrecking ball was also not called in to bring down the smaller of the two old buildings on the Lee Street site.
Additionally, there is a sign for sale at the five-acre site.
Don’t worry, said Tim Cantrell, real estate agent at Florida First Realty Associates who posted this sign.
“It’s been around for a while,” said Cantrell, who has been the agent for his friend for 30 years, the developer of the project, Barry Mansfield of Cullison-Wright Construction.
Cantrell points to the sign next to it, the one that says, “Soon the villas on Lee Street.”
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Al Minner, the city manager of Leesburg is not worried either.
“I talk to Mr. Mansfield all the time,” he said.
Mansfield could not be reached for comment.
No one could fault anyone for being a little nervous. The plans change, and they have changed a lot for the school built in 1924.
There has been a bitter struggle for years over the possibility of saving the original building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a rare honor, but a very expensive proposition for anyone trying to restore a building to its original glory.
Orlando developer Tony Benge bought the property from the Lake School Board in 2014 for $ 200,000 with the idea of turning it into an assisted living facility.
Ocala-based Prospera Senior Living purchased the property in November 2018 for $ 1.25 million, also intending to transform it into an assisted living and memory care community.
But when teams started working on the building in 2019, they discovered it was in worse shape than they thought. It was then that the subject of demolition was broached.
Then a new plan was developed. In January, the city approved the site for multi-family housing, including 14 apartments in the main building, Minner said. The plans call for a total of 49 apartments.
The project meets four of the city’s objectives: to eliminate the scourge, to integrate into the historic district of the city and to be compatible with the master plan of the city center and the surrounding zoning.
The city’s historic preservation council also approved it, Minner said.
It’s a $ 2 million project, Minner said, and he’s been assured he’s still making progress.
“We’re very excited about this,” Minner said.
The pandemic has created problems in all industries, and construction is no exception. There have been labor shortages, wood shortages and high prices.
Now, says Cantrell, “the lenders are hemming and ragging.”
“It’s one thing after another,” Cantrell said. “He (Mansfield) has a lot to do. A lot of people are talking about a big game, but it has taken off. “
The project will be completed, he said.