UPDATED: January 18, 2017 7:52 AM — Former Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty is part of a team that Sanford airport leaders hope will create a vision for developing nearly 500 acres around the Orlando Sanford International Airport.
The Sanford Airport Authority (SAA) selected Zyscovich Architects via its Winter Park office last week as the top choice to provide commercial real estate and land development services. The firm was ranked highest from a field of four companies that submitted information as part of a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from September.
Sanford Airport President Diane Crews and SAA Chairman Frank Ioppollo will now negotiate with Zyscovich to create a contract that the full SAA board is expected to consider at its February meeting.
Although a formal contract has not been inked, Ioppollo spoke highly of Crotty's presence on the Zyscovich team, and that Crotty's experience in creating Innovation Way and Medical City at Lake Nona could benefit the SAA.
"Right now, the Sanford airport is a happy accident," Ioppollo told GrowthSpotter. "We've got a lot of great things happening, but there has been no overriding vision on the real estate side of what the maximum potential of this airport could be. Rich Crotty and the team Zyscovich has assembled provide us with a lot of experience on how to do that."
Since leaving elected office, Crotty has provided consulting services on economic development and government relations issues to private and public entities through his company, Richard Crotty Consulting Group. He said his role on the Zyscovich team would be to figure out how the Sanford airport land fits in the broader economic community.
"What's in the local economy we can use to leverage or augment economic development in the Sanford area?" Crotty asked rhetorically. "For example, are there connections that can be made to UCF or some of the other institutions in the region? A lot of this will be blue-sky thinking, as opposed to let's put a hotel here or a gas station over there."
Ultimately, Ioppollo said Zyscovich was ranked highest by board members because they believed the team's background provided the best opportunity to convert airport land into an economic engine.
"This isn't about real estate transactions. We didn't need an RFQ process to select a firm to help us do deals," he said. "This process was about creating a vision for how we bring high-value companies and industries to this community so they can create good jobs and spin-off business for Sanford and Seminole County. If we get the vision right, the real estate transactions will come."
No timetable has been established on when Zyscovich would provide its vision for the airport real estate. If the board and the company agree to a contract, those details will be spelled out.
Ioppollo expects the first order of business for Zyscovich would be "marshaling the resources" of airport staff, board members, local elected officials, nearby property owners and residents.
The selection of Zyscovich is the culmination of a four-month process that GrowthSpotter first reported in September, though board members began discussing their vision of the airport's property more than a year ago.
About eight companies initially inquired about the RFQ, though only four submitted proposals, in part because the RFQ required some specialized skills.
For instance, because all development at the airport is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration, companies needed experience in public-private partnerships. Not only does the FAA impose height restrictions, regulations prevent the airport from selling land, so all development requires ground leases with the airport authority.
Zyscovich has experience working on and around airports, and developed the airport in Bogota, Colombia. The other three firms with RFQ submissions were:
-- BPRH, a Melbourne-based architectural and engineering company with vast experience in the space industry. As with most of the firms submitting proposals, BPRH partnered with real estate and financial experts to provide a broad base of experience;
-- Foundry Commercial LLC, an Orlando-based company. The firm was formerly known as CNL Commercial Real Estate. Parent company CNL Financial Group Inc. sold its stake in the real estate company in September 2015.