Each time Louis Robbins answered a question at Monday night’s public meeting at the old Mayfair Inn, I kept hearing that classic 60s pop song by The Monkees.
You know the one.
Robbins was asked multiple variations of the same question: Why are you going to spend millions of dollars to buy, renovate and reopen a hotel in downtown Sanford?
“Now I’m a believer,” I heard him say every time.
Obviously he didn’t say it in those words, but his answers, and those of his partner Troy Antonik, left little doubt that he is convinced that spending at least $10 million to reopen the property as a boutique hotel is a smart thing to do.
Monday night’s meeting in the ballroom of the once proud Mayfair Inn was officially a Community Awareness and Participation Plan (CAPP). The city requires the meeting for those who want to change the land use of a property, which will have to be done if the property is to become a hotel 54 years after the last guest left. More than 130 people attended, making it by far the best attended CAPP meeting in the history of CAPP meetings.
Robbins and Antonik spoke about their backgrounds and their general plans for the hotel before taking questions from those gathered.
Before starting Key Performance Hospitality Management (KPHM), Robbins spent 42 years in the hospitality industry. Among his many accomplishments he spent 18 years with Hilton Hotels Corporation as a General Manager and an Area Vice President, was named Central Florida Hotelier of the Year and was responsible for the preopening of the Waldorf Astoria in Lake Buena Vista.
Antonik and Gene Curcio, the third partner in KPHM, were in the senior housing industry before starting the hospitality company. During a 10-year period, they grew their company from 38 facilities to 204 facilities in 21 states with revenues of $1.7 billion. They sold the company in 2014
There is video of the meeting on The Bokey Facebook page HERE. There are three videos. The quality is bad (I’m no videographer), but the audio is pretty good.
Here are the highlights from my notebook (literally) during the Q&A section (warning to Grammar Nazis, many partial sentences, except for quotes):
- Asked if the company would tear down the historic structure, Robbins said emphatically, “We want to leave it.” lots of applause
- As to the type and quality: At least a AAA 4 Diamond hotel. “The finest hotel in Seminole County, that is our goal,” Robbins said.
- Will employee at least 70 full-time staff plus part-time staff once open.
- What about small building on east side of hotel? redo and jazz up, 10 rooms, use as extended stay rooms, full access to hotel services, will have small kitchens
- Will spend significant $$ on marketing, not just hotel but Sanford.
- Can this really happen in downtown? Yes, others want what Mayfair has, “They don’t have Lake Monroe as the backdrop. They’re not going to have the meeting space, the amenities or the finishes we’re going to have,” said Antonik.
- Will have 5,000 sq ft of meeting space.
- Will you rebuild dock? Want to, have to get permits from St Johns River Water Management.
- Will you use a local/historic name for hotel? “We’re not going to call it the Forrest Lake,” said Robbins. BIG laugh in room, way too early to get name
- Timeline: In 3Q 2017 – get land use change and buy property; by 1Q 2018 – design and permit; 2Q 2018 – starting renovating; 1Q 2019 – grand reopening.
- Is there enough market demand? “We believe in Sanford,” Robbins said. (Not quite the Monkees lyric, but close!)
- Is there enough demand #2? Yes, lots of airport business not being served, sports complex visitors, tremendous weekend demand (more on this in a later story I’m working on for The Bokey) “There are not many properties in Central Florida with this type of view and this type of meeting space. It’s a unique property,” said Robbins.
- Are you aware of all new hotels being built? Yes, “The types of hotels being built in Seminole County are not competitive to our hotel,” said Antonik. “You can build all the Hampton Inns and Hilton Gardens that you want, but the guests who will be coming to our hotel are not staying at those properties.”
- How receptive is the city of Sanford? Very!! worked with lots of cities in building/rehabing hotels “The people in the city of Sanford government are absolutely incredible,” said Robbins. “They are so helpful.” specifically mentions Sabreena Colbert and Christine Dalton
- Are you keeping the elevator? Yes!! still operational but can’t be used as regular elevator, requires operator, will used for special occasions once or twice a day with operator
- will you list with national registry of historic places? Exploring, benefits are potential tax credits, marketing opportunities, listing in historic hotel guides; drawbacks are extended approval process, may delay timeline
- will you ask for property tax breaks/grants? open to talks, will consider if right for project,
- Where will people park? adding 150 spaces on site, on east side, will be for hotel guests. “Guests want to park next to hotel, not 2 blocks down the street,” said Antonik. (Added 9:50 a.m. on June 6)