another bright spot in the Sunshine State
With natural assets to be envied and a relaxed lifestyle, Clermont, Florida is the perfect place to call home
Clermont, Florida, is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of the Sunshine State. As you stroll through the vibrant streets of this charming city, you are captivated by its unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and thriving community spirit.
Widely known as the “Choice of Champions,” Clermont has a long-standing reputation for fostering world-class athletes and sporting events, making it a must-visit destination for sports enthusiasts and active individuals.
A warm and inviting atmosphere greets you in Clermont, where the friendly residents are always eager to share their favorite spots and stories about this captivating city. Boasting an impressive array of parks, lakes, and picturesque landscapes, it is no wonder that outdoor enthusiasts find solace in Clermont’s serene environment.
The city’s crown jewel, Lake Minneola, offers visitors a breathtaking oasis to explore, with miles of winding trails and shimmering lakes while its historic downtown is a delightful fusion of old-world charm and modern amenities.
Born and raised in Clermont, Mayor Tim Murry has seen the city change first-hand, “Some of the great features were and still are the rolling hills and the beautiful lakes that we were always surrounded by.”
A key aspect of Clermont’s charm is its abundance of lakes, with the Clermont Chain of Lakes being a particular point of pride for residents. Mayor Murry fondly recalls, “We used to be able to put a boat in Lake Minneola and go to 16 other different lakes.” This beautiful waterfront attracts visitors and hosts events, contributing to the city’s growing economy.
One such event is the iconic Great Clermont Triathlon hosted by Sommer Sports. This year marked the 40th Anniversary thanks to Fred Sommer who was recently honored for his dedication to not only this event, but also many other events hosted here. Mayor Murry proudly states, “Clermont has become the world’s triathlon destination.”
With its population expanding to nearly 46,000 residents, Clermont has become the largest city in Lake County, outpacing former frontrunner Leesburg. This rapid growth has brought about significant changes to the town, making it a dynamic and bustling hub in the region.
Clermont’s tremendous growth in recent years is set to continue, partly thanks to the Wellness Way area. Mayor Murry explains this encompasses approximately 15,000 acres of property in South Lake County. About 5,000 of those acres are located within Clermont. “It’s going to be a city within a city by the time it’s all said and done in the next 10 or 20 years,” he says, emphasizing the city’s preparedness to accommodate this growth with the necessary infrastructure and utilities.
This economic shift from a citrus industry focus to wellness, health, sports, and more reflects the evolution of many Florida cities. Local business owner and Clermont Main Street Board President Kimberly Grogan shares her perspective on working with the city as a resident and entrepreneur. “The city is very easy to work with as far as getting information and knowing how to do the right steps,” she says, adding that the city supports events that contribute to the well-being of residents and visitors.
One such event is a free 5K run on the trail in Waterfront Park every Saturday. This event is a favorite of residents and visitors alike, some who come from far-away states as well as the Disney theme parks, just down the road. As Grogan puts it, “Everybody’s working together towards a great goal of having great activities and events and just a good foundation for people who live here and those visiting.”
Main Street Clermont is working to help small businesses in the downtown area by improving their events and marketing strategies. Grogan highlights their focus on “elevating our events, our weekly farmers market, and our yearly larger events by bringing in more quality vendors.” This approach aims to attract more visitors to downtown Clermont for shopping, dining, and experiencing everything the area offers, including its proximity to the lake and picturesque views.
Clermont’s community focus centers on getting residents outside and providing activities and amenities that take advantage of the city’s natural assets. Mayor Murry shares, “I’ve always considered Clermont a community, so to be a community, I feel like we always have to focus on different activities and venues that meet the residents’ needs and desires.”
One way the city achieves this is through curated events like First Fridays. Mayor Murry explains, “We work closely with Clermont Main Street to close down the street the first Friday of every month, offering food trucks, vendors, and entertainment for residents to enjoy.” In addition, the city hosts various waterfront events to encourage residents to come together and create a sense of community.
Through fostering partnerships with downtown businesses and organizations like Main Street, the city of Clermont is working to maintain its small-town charm and sense of community, even as it continues to grow and evolve.
City Manager Brian Bulthuis discusses ongoing efforts: “Several years ago, the city started redoing the roads, infrastructure, water, and sewer in the downtown as part of our Streetscape Project.” He points out that while people notice the roadwork, they may not know the water and sewer updates happening beneath.
Clermont’s Streetscape project is in the final portion of a three-phase project to revitalize its town center, including street and utility improvements. Bulthuis explains.
“Our goal is to make downtown very walkable so people can come out and enjoy the beautiful waterfront.” The project is expected to be completed later this summer, further enhancing the area’s appeal with its eclectic shops and chef-driven restaurants.
Bulthuis highlights the importance of supporting local businesses and making the downtown area a destination. “The heart of a community is your downtown,” he said. “We have some local business owners who have invested, and the city wants to support these owners.”
The city is working on a docking facility on Lake Minneola to replace the damaged and aging 8th Street Pier. This project includes a new fishing pier with daytime boat docks that will allow visitors on the lake easier access to the downtown area. It will also enhance an existing green space by adding restrooms, outdoor amphitheater seating and picnic areas along Florida’s Coast-to-Coast Trail. Clermont is the middle of the 250-mile trail that links St. Petersburg to Titusville and is the perfect place to stop and visit. Bulthuis says recreation impact fee money will be used to help fund this project.
Economic development is another critical consideration for the city. Clermont is working diligently to lay the groundwork for economic development through various infrastructure projects.
The work underway in the Wellness Way area is another example of successful partnerships between municipalities and private businesses. One portion of the Wellness Way area is a planned community called Olympus. This project includes sports venues, arenas, shopping areas, and residential spaces. Bulthuis emphasized the role of private developers in this project. “They’re paying for running the water and sewer. They’re paying for the roads that are going in.” This cooperation allows for growth and new assets to be brought to the community.
When discussing internet connectivity, Bulthuis mentions that Spectrum primarily serves the city, with some new developments collaborating with private companies for different deals.
To modernize the city, City Manager Bulthuis is keen to reduce bureaucracy and make the permitting process for businesses more user-friendly. He says, “We continue to focus on ensuring our permitting process is as user-friendly as possible.”
Additionally, Clermont has plans to improve its transportation infrastructure. Bulthuis offers two projects that will provide better east-west connections.
The first is the development of the road that will become Wellness Way. Completion is expected by the fall of 2024 and once completed, it will offer a direct route from Highway 27 to State Road 429. The second project, the Lake Orange Connector, is a toll road scheduled for completion in the 2026-27 timeline. Both roads aim to alleviate traffic congestion and improve transportation in and around Clermont and beyond to the Orlando area.
Mayor Murry underscores his focus for 2023 and beyond. He reiterates the importance of supporting and developing the downtown area so businesses can survive and thrive.
“I am extremely proud of the progress made in revitalizing downtown Clermont to transform it from a ghost town to a bustling area with activity throughout the week.”
He also highlights the importance of focusing on other city areas and ensuring the necessary infrastructure is in place.
“We need new schools, a fire station and to address the traffic situation on Highway 50. We want to ensure Clermont is ready for future growth while maintaining its status as the state’s center.” Aside from all these developments, one thing Clermont has going for is its location and position in the state. Mayor Murry points out the unique location of Clermont, positioned at the center of the state with two main highways intersecting in the area.
He concludes by mentioning the Citrus Tower, a historical landmark built in the 1950s.
Reflecting on his memories of visiting the tower and observing the citrus trees and lakes, he says the view may have changed a lot. Still, he remains proud of the landmark and its continued presence, offering a unique vantage point to take in Clermont’s evolving landscape.
His optimism for Clermont’s future is evident as he works to address various challenges and capitalize on the city’s unique strengths to ensure its growth and prosperity.
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AT A GLANCE
What: A beautiful city with modern and top-tier amenities
Where: Lake County, Florida