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Wildwood takes 'a great first step' toward transforming its downtown

Wildwood city officials believe a new parking garage will open up more opportunities for development on the west side of U.S. 301.  This rendering is provided by G3 Development and the city of Wildwood.
Wildwood city officials believe a new parking garage will open up more opportunities for development on the west side of U.S. 301. This rendering is provided by G3 Development and the city of Wildwood.

Wildwood took a big step Monday toward transforming its downtown, with approvals for a parking garage and a commercial building with shops, restaurants and outdoor spaces.

The development is called The Railyard, a nod to Wildwood's railroad heritage. It will use city property near City Hall along the west side of Main Street, which is U.S. 301.

Commissioners have authorized staff to finalize a public-private partnership G3 Development of Mount Dora. The city will sell its lots for the commercial building. The parking garage  could cost the city an estimated $8.6 million.

City Manager Jason McHugh calls the improvements "a great first step" in the downtown master plan.

"I think you're going to see a lot of folks wanting to be here, wanting to come here, have a place for family," he said. "It's a place that's a little bit different from what The Villages offers, that helps complement the great things that they're doing, as well."

McHugh said he hopes the project brings other private investments downtown "to help continue to create a sense of place and helps us be a lot more aesthetically pleasing than it used to be."

The city also moved ahead with plans for a linear park along a nearby section of U.S. 301.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.