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Seminole County Developments

Developer of downtown Sanford’s boutique hotel finds way to create more space for amenities

When Suncor Properties, Inc. began designing the lobby of the 60-room boutique hotel planned for Sanford’s historic downtown district, the development team encountered a problem.

They’d hope to add a bar, a fitness center, offices and a front desk to the ground floor of the four-story hotel to be built at the northeast corner of W. First Street and Oak Avenue. They quickly realized there just wasn’t enough room to comfortably fit it all.

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So after the city’s historic preservation board approved the exterior design of the hotel in March, green-lighting it for construction, developers sought a solution to the space conundrum.

The plan: Build another structure, a hotel annex, on the 1.8-acre property that backs up to Fulton Avenue, across from City Hall.

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Sanford has invested millions of dollars and city staff time over the past decade toward creating a lively downtown filled with restaurants and entertainment.

But downtown Sanford, an attractive, growing area along the south shore of Lake Monroe, currently doesn’t have any hotels. Developers of what would be the area’s first in years want to maximize what it has to offer.

“The purpose of this annex building is to make the hotel a better experience,” Ron Semans, a partner and vice president with Sanford-based SunCor told the city’s historic preservation board at its June 15 meeting.

“When we started to design the lobby area of the hotel, the footprint is so small for the project, we discovered that the fitness center was in the lobby, the office was in the lobby, the front desk was in the lobby. You have all of these things in the lobby, which really didn’t allow for any flow.”

Semans told the board that representatives of the brand being pursued for the hotel agreed with the need for more space. He told GrowthSpotter he wasn’t ready to disclose the name of that brand just yet.

“What we came up with, what we thought was a very creative solution, was this annex building,” he said.

The annex building is just one component of Suncorp’s larger-scale vision for downtown Sanford. On adjacent property to the north, the developer is moving forward on plans for 32 townhome units that’ll feature three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two-car garages.

Four of the townhome buildings will consist of five units while three will hold four units. Construction has started on two of the buildings and are about 50% complete, Semans told GrowthSpotter.

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Sanford-based Engineering firm CPH, Inc. and Jacksonville-based architecture firm Zona and Associates are involved in the project.

Records show Suncor bought the hotel and townhome site next to Henry’s Depot from SunTrust Banks, now Truist, in 2017. The deal came to about $335,000.

The property has been vacant since the demolition of the former SunBank in 2011, according to city records.

The site is part of Sanford’s historic downtown district, with roots that date back to the 1880s when it was used as a rail station and eventually became part of the Orange Belt Railroad system. Transportation mogul Henry B. Plant built the railway that stretched 152 miles between Sanford and St. Petersburg.

Today the downtown district is without a hotel.

The last hotel here was demolished a couple of years ago to make way for a new assisted living facility on Marina Island, which opened in early 2020.

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In 2019, an investment group filed plans with the city to renovate Sanford’s historic Mayfair Inn, planning to invest an estimated $30 million to restore and enlarge the 94-year-old building into a 130-room, boutique hotel.

That project is no longer being pursued.

“A hotel is exactly what is needed in Sanford,” Semans told GrowthSpotter in 2020, when plans for the hotel and townhomes were announced. “There are so many events happening in downtown, if there’s a wedding, there’s no place to stay.”

Pamela Lynch, the city’s economic development project manager, said the city is “thrilled” about a hotel coming to the heart of its downtown.

“There is no doubt that the boutique hotel will see room nights almost immediately due to the plethora of events that are held virtually every weekend of the year,” she told GrowthSpotter.

The city’s historic preservation board determined in March that the hotel proposed by SunCor is compatible with lot layout requirements and intention for urban form.

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“The masonry building materials — brick, cement lap siding and stucco — correspond to those approved for the adjacent town homes,” an approval letter from the board states, “Although horizontal siding is not a feature in historic commercial buildings in the Downtown Historic Commercial District, in (the hotel) design, it functions to define and vary the facades.”

The only aspect of the project pending approval is the new hotel annex.

Semans told the board on June 15 that the annex would house a fitness center on one end of its first floor. A day spa, he said, could possibly occupy the other end. The second floor would be used for office space and storage.

That would free up space in the hotel’s main lobby to extend the bar area.

“Now we’ve moved all of those components out of the first floor lobby of the hotel and that allowed us to expand the bar area from an original very, very small bar to taking up half the lobby area,” Semans said.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at (407)-800-1161 or dwyatt@GrowthSpotter.com, or tweet me at @DustinWyattGS. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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