Sanford eyes prime downtown lakefront land for hotel, shops, homes
By Martin E. Comas, Orlando Sentinel
Sanford pushes to develop downtown land
The city of Sanford plans to team with a developer with the hope of turning a stagnant pocket near the Lake Monroe waterfront into a vibrant area filled with homes, restaurants, shops and a hotel.
The plan is part of a push to spark development along Sanford's scenic waterfront and also to sell off a large portion of city-owned properties in its downtown district.
"The city owns a lot of prime real estate, and we've had it for a long time," Mayor Jeff Triplett said. "Now we've come up with plans as to how we would like to see it developed."
City leaders also hope the development plan will lure more residents and visitors into Sanford's core.
The roughly three-block area — bordered by East Seminole Boulevard, Sanford Avenue, First Street and Palmetto Avenue — is owned mostly by the city and currently being used as parking lots for Seminole's civil courthouse and the downtown district.
According to a conceptual plan presented to city leaders this month, Sanford would select a developer early next year to build — in four phases — six single-family homes, 50 townhomes, 29,000 square feet of office and retail space, a 90-room hotel and a four-story parking garage.
The city would oversee the development. And as portions of the project are completed, the city and developer would sell off the land and the buildings.
"The key is to get these properties back on the tax rolls," said John M. Jones of Littlejohn, an Orlando engineering and consulting firm hired by Sanford.
Construction on the first phase, which includes the homes, could start by the end of 2015, city officials said.
Because the property sits between busy First Avenue — considered Sanford's main street — and the city's Marina Island on Lake Monroe, it is considered one of the most desirable tracts in the city's core, said Bob Turk, Sanford's economic-development director.
"We want to bring people downtown, where they can live and work," Turk said.
In recent years, Sanford officials have looked at turning over a significant amount of city-owned land in the downtown district into private development.
For example, within a 178-acre area bordered by Lake Monroe, Fort Mellon Park, Second Avenue and U.S. Highway 17-92, Sanford owns nearly 32 acres. And according to Seminole County's property appraiser, all that land is valued at nearly $16 million.
If it were all in private hands, the land alone could generate more than $300,000 in tax revenue this year, county officials said. The tax revenue would be much higher if it were developed.
Many of the parcels owned by the city that will be part of this development plan were acquired during the past few years with the intent by city officials that Sanford could guide future development in the downtown district.
However, many of those properties have sat idle or are being used as parking lots.
The property that Sanford now wants to develop on includes the site of the old post-office building that Sanford bought in 2003 for $550,700 with plans to turn it into a police substation.
But the city never followed through on building the substation, and the vacant post-office building became infested with mold, mildew and ferns. Last year, Sanford razed the building at a cost of nearly $60,000.
The other portion of the property along First Street, between Palmetto and Sanford avenues, was purchased last year for $450,000.
"So now it's about working with a developer to get it developed," Triplett said. "Because it really doesn't do us any good to hold on to these properties."
email@example.com or 407-420-5718
PLEASE NOTE: Florida has a very broad public records law. Any written communication to or from City officials regarding City business is a public record available to the public and media upon request. Your e-mail communications may be subject to public disclosures.