A local developer is finalizing plans to build a new hotel in downtown Sanford.
Located at 200 W. 1st St. two blocks west of the heart of downtown Sanford, the three-story hotel would have 60 to 75 rooms, with possibly a handful of suites on the top floor.
First Street Station LLC, an affiliate of Sanford-based Suncor Properties, Inc. undertaking the project, has secured a commitment from Choice Hotels to build a Comfort Inn on the site, said principal Ron Semans.
“Choice has a Comfort Inn & Suites product, but we have not decided if we’re going to add suites to this project,” he told GrowthSpotter.
The limited-service hotel would not include food or beverage service.
“There’s more than a dozen restaurants, four breweries and several craft cocktail and beer bars within a five-minute walk from the hotel,” Semans said.
The property, which is located on the vacant lot at the northwest corner of Oak Avenue and 1st Street, was originally planned to be a 96-unit complex with one- and two-bedrooms, as well as a mix of first-floor retail on the site.
Semans and partner Bob Horian have since decided to focus on a hotel rather than multifamily for the site.
Semans noted that the Sanford City Commission in May approved nearly $13 million in incentives for the Heritage Park project that will bring 235 apartments, as well as retail, restaurant and office space to downtown.
“We didn’t feel the need to compete with that project, and feel this is an opportunity to serve a different need downtown,” Semans said.
He also pointed out that a new 6,000-square-foot event venue recently opened six blocks south of the proposed hotel site and is expected to drive demand for hotel rooms. Called Venue 1902 at Preservation Hall, the event space is located in Seminole County’s first high school.
“We’ve booked multiple weddings and corporate events each month for the next 18 months,” said Lissa Lessard, owner of Venue 1902. “As of now, anyone needing hotel space has to go to Lake Mary.”
Semans said he does not believe his project will compete with plans to renovate the old Mayfair Inn near Fort Mellon Park. Built in 1925 as the Hotel Forrest Lake, the Mayfair project would cater to a more upscale market and those seeking lodging in a historically significant hotel.
“The developers for the Mayfair have said they want to have the most luxurious hotel in Seminole County,” said Semans. “Our rates will be $80 to $100 a night, so the two hotels will serve different markets.”
Financing for the Comfort Suites project, estimated at $7.5 million, will come from traditional bank loans and private equity.
The project will still need to go through Sanford’s planning and zoning process. Semans expects to break ground by the end of 2018.
Semans and Horian were awarded last year a $100,000 grant from Sanford’s Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) toward their construction costs for the originally proposed 96- unit apartment project.
That grant was conditional on construction starting at the site by January 2018. The developers met with the CRA recently, and were approved for the $100,000 grant to be moved to their new hotel project on the site, with a deadline extension to begin construction set for January 2019.
I am not opposed to the project because it does fit a specific niche in the market. The location would garner additional support for local businesses and restaurants. Hotel guest would walk downtown Sanford for dinner rather than staying and dining in Lake Mary. Anything to grow the local economy is a plus. I would, however, suggest a design change to the facade. Something that fits the period architect of 1st street and blends in aesthetically. Think of the chain hotels in Charleston or Savannah. Walking by, one would hardly notice them to be a chain hotel. Overall, a positive move forward! #Sanfording
I believe the developers will have to go before the Historic Preservation Board to get approval for their plans, and the HPB has in the past been very firm in ensuring that the historic character of our downtown is maintained. I know I plan on attending any such meetings to keep track of this. But overall, it seems a good prospect for downtown development and increasing foot traffic downtown.