It was 54 years ago that the last guest left the Mayfair Inn. In the years since, many Sanford residents have longed to see a hotel return to the historic, Mediterranean-style building overlooking Lake Monroe.
That day may come in early 2019.
Sanford-based Key Performance Hospitality Management (KPHM) and its affiliate Pelta RE Ventures LLC has the 3-parcel, 6.31-acre property under contract and could close the deal by late summer or early fall.
The company plans to use the existing structure, architecture and design to house a 120-room, full-service hotel. Executive Vice President and CFO Troy Antonik said he expects much of 2nd and 3rd floors guest rooms will be gutted to meet current codes and regulations. New guest rooms would range in size from 300 to 500 square feet.
Antonik said the company estimates the total investment will be $10 million to $12 million, including purchase price. The property was recently listed for $2.5 million.
Antonik said a new hotel could open in the first or second quarter of 2019, barring any major setbacks.
The hotel is being designed to meet or exceed the standards of AAA’s Four Diamond designation. It would feature 120 to 150 off-street parking stalls with enhanced landscaping surrounding the parking areas; a full-service restaurant and lounge; fitness facility and spa; and meeting spaces to host weddings, social events, business meetings and and community events.
Antonik said his firm has not secured a hotel flag at this point. One option would be to to align the new hotel with one of the major hotel flags’ soft brands. Soft brands are boutique properties that allow individual hotels to have their own name, image and amenities apart from a traditional Marriott brand, for example. Soft brands add value to independent hotels by providing global reservation systems, guest loyalty programs and management expertise that brands like Marriott and Hilton offer.
“We’re not that far along in the process, but regardless of those discussions, we will operate it as an independendent hotel,” Antonik said.
As Antonik and his partners perform their due diligence during the next 120 days, they will need to secure the proper land uses from the city of Sanford. Although the property was originally built as a hotel, the current land use designation is private school and college. The city’s planning board and city commission will have to approve a conditional land use change for a hotel. That process is expected to take about 90 days to meet all public hearing and public notice requirements.
To that end, Antonik said KPHM will host a community meeting on the property (1095 E. 1st St.) at 6 p.m. Monday, June 5 to discuss the company’s plans.
During their May 8 meeting, Sanford City Commissioners discussed the possibility of offering partial tax abatements for anyone buys the property, retains its historic structure and preserves the building to preservation standards. Currently the property is exempt from taxes because of the non-profit status of its current owner, New Tribes Mission.
Commissioners also discussed offering assistance to any new property owners in securing grants and other funding sources if the building is renovated to historic standards.
Antonik said his company does indeed plan to keep the historic nature of the building, though he’s not sure whether KPHM will voluntarily place the building under the city’s historic preservation codes or list the property on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The charm of the building is that it’s an historic place, and we want to take advantage of that,” said Antonio. “We’re still determining what the best route will be for us to do that.”
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The building was designed by Sanford resident and Master Architect Elton Motin as a Mediterranean-style resort. It was originally named for the man who built it, Forrest Lake, Sanford’s all-time biggest cheerleader.
Lake served 11 terms as Sanford mayor, 2 terms in the Florida House of Representatives and 3 years in the penitentiary at Raiford for financial shenanigans involving fraudulent city bond sales, as well as intermingling city and personal funds at the bank he founded, the Seminole County Bank. (“Forrest Lake: crook or visionary?“)
The city took over the hotel when Lake went to prison in the early 1930s, and W.E. Kirchhoff Jr. leased the building from the city, changing the name to the Mayfair Inn. Early guests included millionaire H.L. Hunt, actors Tallulah Bankhead and Wendy Barrie, author Thornton Wilder and, according to rumor, the gangster Al Capone.
The New York Giants baseball organization bought the building in 1947 and used it as their base of operations during Spring Training. The hotel was also popular with golfers who came to Sanford to play PGA tour events at the Mayfair Country Club.
The building stopped operating as a hotel in 1963, when the Bernarr MacFadden Foundation opened the Sanford Naval Academy School for Boys. The foundation declared bankruptcy and closed the school in 1976.
Since 1977, the building has been the international headquarters of New Tribes Mission, a nondenominational missionary organization. New Tribes, which recently changed its name to Ethnos360, is selling the property since it has moved most of its operations into the 6-story, old Federal Trust building on 1st Street near the entrance to downtown.
Key Performance Hospitality Management and Pelta RE Ventures LLC are locally owned with offices in Downtown Sanford in the Welaka Building (north side of 100 block of West 1st Street). They currently own and operate two hotels in the Central Florida market, a 188-room full-service direct oceanfront Holiday Inn Resort in Daytona Beach and a 109-room limited service Hampton Inn & Suites located near the University of Central Florida.
Editor’s note: I wrote an earlier version of this story for GrowthSpotter.com, an online publication that focuses on early-stage development news and notably property sales.