Sanford's Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency has awarded a $50,000 construction grant to an Orlando developer pitching new mixed-use multifamily in the city's urban core.
The three-story development would include 14 one-bedroom apartments on the top two floors and 2,200 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. The $3.5 million project would be located at 201 S. Sanford Ave., just outside the city's historic business district. If built, it would be the first new construction along that stretch of Sanford Avenue in 50 years.
Dan Matthews, the developer behind the project, said he has watched the "buzz" about Sanford grow as new breweries, restaurants and entertainment have opened and brought new visitors to town.
"What's really missing is the residential component," he said. "More and more people want to live in that city-type environment."
In particular, Matthews believes there is a market for his project among employees working at the large corporate campuses in Lake Mary like Verizon, AAA and Veritas, among others.
"People want to live in a real downtown, not a cookie-cutter community," Matthews said.
The city's CRA created the new construction grant program last year as a way to spur development in the area. The grant will reimburse developers 20 percent of construction costs, up to $50,000.
While the contribution is not substantial, the grant does give the CRA an opportunity to market development downtown.
"Really it helps developers take a second look at building in Sanford," said Charles Davis, vice chairman of the CRA board. "It's not a huge enticement, but it can help offset some of the engineering and design costs."
One of the requirements of the program is that construction must start within one year. To date, two projects have received grants as part of the program.
One received an extension and modification at the Nov. 1 CRA meeting. The second has yet to begin the planning review process, and is in jeopardy of losing its grant in January.
Matthews does not own the property, but has a contract to close on a purchase in December, after the Sanford Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Dec. 7.
While the property is zoned SC-3 commercial, Matthews is seeking a conditional use to reduce the amount of parking required on the roughly quarter-acre site. He is proposing 14 on-site parking spaces, or one for each one-bedroom apartment.
Engineering for the project is being provided by the Orlando office of VHB. The project will be funded by a mix of private equity and bank financing. Matthews said he is currently negotiating with several banks, and has yet to select a general contractor for the project.
The property was once the site of the Hotel San Leon, which survived the Great Sanford Fire of 1887. The hotel was eventually razed between 1912 and 1917, and the property has been vacant ever since. The land currently generates about $600 in tax revenue to the CRA. If developed, it could add $25,000 to the CRA's coffers.