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Prominent attorney buys city block in Downtown Sanford, plans infill project

Prominent attorney buys city block in Downtown Sanford, plans infill project
The east and west elevations of an historic building that attorney Mark Nation wants to renovate as part of a one-block infill project  in Downtown Sanford. (Allen Arthur Architect)

How do you create a development plan when you own an entire city block? That's the opportunity facing Mark A. Nation after assembling land last year in Downtown Sanford.

"We're still developing our vision for the property. We basically have a blank canvas to work with," the Longwood-based attorney and face of Nation Law Firm told GrowthSpotter.

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Nation purchased all but 2,614 square feet of the 1.5-acre block that is bounded on the east and west by Oak and Myrtle avenues, between 2nd and 3rd streets. The property is a block south of where Wilson Center LLC plans to build 96 apartments.

Nation paid a total of $485,000 for two parcels of land in July and September 2016 transactions. Except for three buildings totaling 7,254 square feet, the block is vacant. He said it will most likely be developed as a mixed-use project.

The project could be developed as a city square concept, with a central open space and connected walkways. Nation is also considering fee-simple residential units with zero-lot-lines, as opposed to standard apartment or townhouse residential.

"I like the look of that type of development," said Nation, who cautioned he is still very early in the visioning process. He is working with David J. Smith Inc., a Winter Springs-based contractor, as well as Orlando architect Allen Arthur to develop a concept for the property.

Nation met with Sanford planners Tuesday morning as part of a pre-app conference to discuss renovations to one of the three buildings on the property, a two-story structure built in 1918.

The building is notable because it once belonged to Chase & Company, an agriculture firm founded in 1884 – seven years after the city of Sanford was incorporated – and which still operates today as Sunniland Corp.

The renovation plan calls for a restaurant with outdoor seating at ground level, as well as a second-floor, wrap-around terrace. The inside of the building would feature more private second-floor mezzanine seating overlooking the first-floor dining area and open kitchen.

City planners were generally positive about the concept, but noted there would be some issues to work out regarding a terrace overhanging a public sidewalk, particularly if the plan called for support columns in the public right-of-way.

Nation said he bought the property in Sanford because of the revitalization occurring in the downtown district. His property is on the west side of downtown, but sits less than a five-minute walk from planned developments totally more than $70 million of investments, including the Wilson Center LLC project.

Sanford leaders are negotiating with a Coral Gables developer to redevelop a three-block area along Lake Monroe and the city-owned marina, and the city's Community Redevelopment Agency plans to build a new 25,000-square-foot events center.

"There are a lot of positive things going on in Sanford, and I think Mark Nation's investment in our downtown just reinforces that fact," said Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett.

Editor's Note: This story was updated in the fourth paragraph to correct the total price paid for land.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at gnip@me.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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