Unlike other Central Florida cities, Sanford has not seen development blossom around its SunRail station, the northernmost transit stop in Seminole County.
That may be about to change. The gigantic DeBartolo Development firm is reportedly in partnership with the owner of a vacant 12-acre site across State Road 46 from the Sanford transit hub.
"If everything continues down this path, it will be DeBartolo," Kevin Wydra, the property owner, told GrowthSpotter. "It seems like it's going to be a great partnership."
DeBartolo executives did not return phone calls for comment, but a master plan submitted to Sanford lists the Tampa-based company as an applicant for the development. The plan shows 10 acres of the property dedicated to multi-family housing, and the remaining 2 acres as some type of commercial use.
The heft and credibility that DeBartolo brings could finally kick-start Wydra's long-delayed plans for a Transit-Oriented Development at the southeast corner of State Road 46 (West First Street) and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Wydra, a software executive, created Transit Properties LLC in 2014 to develop the property he bought that year for $1 million. Two years later, he told GrowthSpotter he was talking to two national developers who built residential communities at other SunRail stops, as well as to a mixed-income residential developer.
But nothing came of those talks. Wydra said some of the developers were seeking government tax credits to build affordable housing.
"We had multiple potential relationships, but this has been the best one," Wydra said. "This is going to be a market rate deal rather than a tax credit developer."
Wydra said he expects to build between 250 and 300 garden-style apartments with surface parking. He's not sure what will go on the commercial plot. That will be decided in consultation with DeBartolo as will the start date for construction.
For years, Sanford has watched as one city after another with a SunRail station reported new transit-oriented development. Picerne Real Estate Group and Epoch Residential have both completed transit-oriented development projects in the Seminole County cities of Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary and Maitland.
And last summer, Integra Land Co. announced it would build a 289-unit luxury apartment community near the SunRail station in the Volusia County city of DeBary.
Wydra said he never lost faith that his investment in land near a transit station would pay off. He cites the growth of new businesses and homes on Rinehart Road and in downtown Sanford. And then, there are all those TOD projects that have sprung up around SunRail stations in Seminole County and elsewhere. Surely Sanford's time would come.
"I think if you look at the development at some of the other SunRail stations, all the things going on with growth off Rinehart Road and going on downtown and us sitting across the street from the station, we think there are benefits from our location," Wydra said. "And anything with the (DeBartolo) name and some of the projects they've done in the Orlando area, there should be a huge amount of credibility there."