| By Kathryn Deen |
The City of Clermont continues to bolster its stronghold as a haven for new businesses. It’s also full speed ahead on plenty of exciting renovations to attract more visitors to its Historic Downtown.
Those are the big stories city leaders will focus on as they look ahead for 2018, according to Clermont’s 2018 State of the City Update.
“I’m happy to report we are well on our way to revitalizing the heart and soul of our city,” said Darren Gray, Clermont city manager, during his report on Jan. 25 at Clermont City Center.
If you’re in more of a reading mood, allow us to share the highlights…
- Hefty investments in local parks in 2017.
- Hancock Park got new batting cages, bull pens and fencing for its softball fields.
- New fencing was added to Palatlakaha Park on 12th Street, as well as new bleachers and sunshades for spectators.
- In 2018, Felter Park is up for new upgrades and amenities.
- Most of Clermont Performing Arts Center’s musicals, plays and concerts are in the spring: Menopause the Musical was sold out; Chubby Checker came on February 2; TIFFANY will perform March 16.
- Two of the City’s most popular events are Red, White and Boom on July 4, and Light Up Clermont, which drew 15,000 attendees in December 2017.
- A new program called the Great Clermont Camp Out brought more than 50 families out to camp under the stars along Waterfront Park in March 2017. This year it’s Feb. 15 and 16.
- Clermont was ranked among the top 10 percent of cities in the U.S. to start a business by WalletHub, which analyzed the city’s overall business environment, access to resources like financing and labor, and business costs.
- One of the biggest changes in 2017 was in the expansion of Clermont’s economic base: 120 new businesses opened or committed to opening in 2018 in Clermont, including 30 Downtown. Those included restaurants and retail shops, from big box stores to bridal boutiques.
- Two new breweries are under construction. (See Clermont Magazine’s story about Suncreek Brewery.)
- More shopping and restaurants under development: an organic grocer (Lucky’s Market), two Home Goods stores, a new virtual-reality game center; and the City’s first First Watch.
- For the first time, Clermont hosted the U.S. Canoe and Kayak National Championships at the Clermont Boat House.
- The National Synchronized Swimming Championships took place last year at the National Training Center.
- These new events add to a growing number of sports events taking place in Clermont, as well as the Olympic athletes, international teams, college and high school athletes who train here.
- In 2017, Clermont opened brand-new police headquarters just north of the Arts & Recreation Center.
- As part of that opening, the City’s IT department launched a new law-enforcement data center to help improve efficiency and response times of officers.
- Clermont’s police department was re-accredited and received an award from the Florida Police Chiefs Association for its innovative community policing programs.
- The police department also partnered with Lifestream Behavioral Services to create a Mobile Crisis Unit for mental health emergencies. When a 9-1-1 call comes in to dispatch and involves a mental-health issue, the unit is activated and a licensed clinician helps officers provide the best interventions in the field and provides any follow-up that might be necessary. This is one of the only units like it in the country.
- Clermont’s fire department secured a $1.2 million grant to add nine new firefighters. The department also began the application process for international accreditation, which is expected to be completed this year. Fewer than 200 non-military fire agencies qualify for this distinction.
Health & Education
- South Lake Hospital and Lake Sumter State College partnered to open the Health Sciences Collegiate Academy, which will graduate its first class in 2018. They also secured approval to add a new bachelor’s program for nursing
- This year, South Lake Hospital will open two new satellite campuses and expand its emergency room.
- The City is in the middle of activating Clermont’s Downtown Master Plan to enhance current assets; better connect Downtown’s corridors to the trail and Highway 50; and grow commercial and residential offerings.
- Last year, visible progress on the plan included breaking ground last June on Victory Pointe, a new park for morning walks, afternoon field trips and weekends with the family. All major stormwater elements are complete, and the elevated boardwalks over the ponds and marsh areas are now under construction.
- Victory Pointe, a regional stormwater facility, will collect and clean stormwater for all new development and re-development on the west side of Downtown. Any business that wants to build in that area won’t have to worry about setting aside part of their property for stormwater, a big incentive for businesses that could give downtown a competitive edge over other, more established Downtowns nearby.
- The City has begun preparing for the construction of the Pavilion and Event Area, where it’ll host current and new community events, such as sidewalk art festivals, holiday celebrations and family 5ks.
- Work is being prepared on the beach area, which will serve as the start and finish of many amateur and professional races.
- Everything is on track to be completed this summer.
- A block of Minneola Street has gotten some upgrades recently as part of the Master Plan.
- One of Clermont’s biggest assets, the South Lake Trail, skirts along the outside of Downtown Clermont with limited sight lines. As a result, the City is adding an alternate trail route called “Clermont Legacy Loop” along Minneola Street, from 7th Street to Victory Pointe.
- By using Legacy Loop, walkers, runners and cyclists can grab lunch and dinner, enjoy a craft brew or a glass of wine, and explore the shops and boutiques.
- The City is also moving forward on the design for its new Waterfront District along Lake Minneola, which stretches from West Avenue to Lake Avenue, and from the shoreline to Montrose Street.
- The idea is for these six square blocks to become a bustling waterfront destination with eclectic restaurants, outdoor cafes and live music venues. Everything will be accessible by car, but also by bike and boat.
- The Master Plan is designed to enhance what the City has and to make it easier for people to access those assets, leaving it up to the private sector to do the rest.
Kathryn Deen is the founder and editor of Clermont Magazine, a Clermont resident and an award-winning professional journalist.