Mark Nation is best known for his day job as a prominent Central Florida attorney, but it's his side gig that's drawing interest and financial support from the city of Sanford.
GrowthSpotter first reported in January that Nation had purchased a mostly vacant 1.5-acre city block in downtown Sanford, bounded on the east and west by Oak and Myrtle avenues, set between 2nd and 3rd streets.
The property has three buildings totaling 7,254 square feet, including a 4,680-square-foot building that will be the first phase of Nation's project by undergoing renovation.
To accomplish that, Nation will need to demo most of the inside, including most of the second floor. The finished interior would feature a private second-floor mezzanine seating area overlooking the first-floor dining room and open kitchen.
The renovation would also include the addition of a two-story, 3,300-square-foot outdoor seating area.
The Sanford Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency is supportive of the project, and approved $88,000 in grants to help offset facade and redevelopment costs.
Sonia Fonseca, CRA executive director, said the redevelopment grants help spur private investment in downtown Sanford.
"They help act as catalysts for other investments," she said.
Nation told GrowthSpotter the grant is one reason he made the investment.
The project has all the necessary city approvals and will soon begin the permitting process. Nation said he has talked with several Orlando-area restauranteurs, but has yet to make a choice or determine the type of cuisine.
"The final concept will be a destination restaurant, a place you make a point to visit," said Nation, who estimated project cost at $500,000.
The building is being renovated instead of being demolished because it is located within the city's commercial historic district, Nation said. In addition, the building has some historic significance.
It once belonged to Chase & Co., an agriculture firm founded in 1884, seven years after the city of Sanford was incorporated. Chase & Co. stills operates today as Sunniland Corp.
To that end, Nation said the renovation has received a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Sanford Historic Preservation Board.
As for the vacant property, which makes up about 75 percent of the block, Nation said he's still developing a vision. Ideally he would like to build a mixed-use or residential project, with the belief that the west side of downtown is begging for redevelopment that could make his project more viable.
A new cider-making establishment – Tuffy's Cidery and Bottle Shop – should open by the end of the year across the street from Nation's property. One block away, the city's fourth brewery is also expected to open by the end of the year and a new hotel is planned in 2018.
"I don't have a time frame for creating a plan, but the bottom line is I want it to be a first-class project," Nation said.