Sanford picks partner for $55 million downtown project

Monday night the Sanford City Commission selected Torre Companies (Torre) as its partner to lead a $55 million redevelopment project that could change the face of downtown.

Torre, a Coral Gables-based developer with a background developing in historic communities, was chosen over two other developers during a 4-month Request For Qualifications (RFQ) selection process.

The project, referred to by city officials as the “catalyst site,” is considered a once-in-a-generation project that would jump-start new construction downtown and better connect 1st Street to the waterfront.

What is the catalyst site?

It is 5.5 acres of city-owned land. It includes the 2 full city blocks, stretching from 1st Street to Seminole Boulevard between Palmetto and Sanford avenues. It also includes the parking lot on the east side of the Seminole County Civil Courthouse. The site is almost 3 city blocks.

It is called the “catalyst site” because the city wants it to be a catalyst for other development in downtown. Not counting the site, there are about 100 acres of developable property in downtown and the immediate surrounding area.

What is going to be built?

That is the $55 million question. The first step in the process was for the city to choose a qualified developer (Torre). In it’s RFQ, the city proposed a hotel, a mix of residential (apartments, townhomes, etc.), retail/restaurant/office space and parking garages.

When is this going to happen?

Not soon. Realistically it could be 18 months before the first spade of dirt is turned. During that time the city and Torre will be engaged in a two-step dance.

Step 1: Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

The partners will sign an MOU which will outline the responsibilities of each party. Generally, Torre will be responsible for conducting research to determine what type of mixed-use project the real estate market will support. The firm will also be responsible for leading a series of public meetings to gather input. The city will be responsible for doing some preliminary infrastructure planning. This step is expected to take 8 to 10 months.

Step 2: Development Agreement

This is where all of the details come out. Torre will present its research, as well as it’s plan to develop the site. The agreement would also include how the project is to be funded and whether the land is to be leased, sold or some combination. This step is expected to take 6 to 8 months. At any time prior to the Development Agreement being signed, either party can back out.

From there, the city and Torre would begin implementing the plan and starting construction.

NOTE: The photo featured above is a rendering of  the Cocoa Beach Gateway project designed by Dover, Kohl and Partners, a design firm partnering with Torre Companies. It is NOT a rendering of what the Sanford catalyst site will look like, but rather a conceptual idea of what a plan by Torre could look like.


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