Plans by former Winter Park City Commissioner Phil Anderson to build an upscale assisted living facility on the former Progress Point site hit a road block at Monday's city commission meeting, when Mayor Steve Leary spoke out against the idea, and a new appraisal valued the land $1 million above the buyer's offer.
The 3.7-acre site at 1150 N. Orange Ave. was acquired by Winter Park in 2011 through a property swap with a CNL Commercial Real Estate affiliate. The city never developed the land or found a buyer until it issued a "notice of disposal" earlier this year.
The only offer made was at $4.5 million by ROC Seniors Housing Fund Manager, a subsidiary of Bridge Investment Group Partners.
That figure was slightly above the property's appraised value from 2011, but a new appraisal delivered on Friday was for $5.69 million, considering higher density than what the upscale assisted living facility and retail/restaurant component Anderson has proposed.
"We're happy to sit with city staff, and I believe we can bridge the gap (between the offer and recent appraisal value)," Anderson said Tuesday. "That appraisal was for a highest and best use, but that would call for a more intense use than what we proposed."
ROC Seniors is the nation's largest senior housing private equity fund. Mayor Leary and several local merchants criticized the assisted living facility proposal as not in line with the city's development goals on Orange Avenue.
Due to the new appraisal value and critical public feedback, city commissioners voted to table the sale proposal and have Planning and Zoning staff review the Progress Point site for best-use options.
"We are not in desperate need of money," Leary said. "We don't need to go out and sell this today."
Dori Stone, community development and planning director, said city staff has estimated that the ROC Seniors plan would "put the property back on the tax rolls," and would generate $71,000 to $86,000 in taxes to the general fund, while also creating 100 new jobs.
"I think we've presented the right project for this location," Anderson told commissioners. "We've got the right value and we proposed the right value for what we think will be a low density use – low impact on schools, low impact on traffic."
In addition to an assisted living facility, ROC Seniors would build a restaurant on the site. "We intend to be architecturally sensitive on Orange Avenue," Anderson said.
Mayor Leary said the city could get more money for the property if it hires a commercial broker to market it for Winter Park. Commissioner Carolyn Cooper disagreed, saying it was a good proposal for an empty parcel.
Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments, was at the commission meeting on other business, but noted his firm looked at the Progress Point site in the past for purchase. He would consider it again as a great site for mixed-use development.
"There's nobody who is going to be able to go there and do retail at that price. It won't support retail at that price," Whittall said. "If you do mixed use, it would work great. I wish the city would do that, because we'd be willing to look into that."
ROC Seniors has owned and developed more than 200 communities in 38 states, including properties in upscale locations like Beverly Hills, downtown Chicago, and Povo, Utah, Anderson said.