Mark Nation moves forward with project on west side of downtown

UPDATE – 1-26-18, 6:55 p.m. I spoke with Mark a few moments ago. The inside of the building has been gutted, he has been in talks with several restaurantuers and wants to talk with others. He will begin interior renovations once a tenant has been chosen so the space can be custom-built. He hopes to start construction later this spring.

Many of the 100-year beams inside the building were in good shape, however, several were not salvageable. B&G Saw Mill in Eustis has crafted some new ones to go along side the old ones. I’ll post pix of the new beams on The Bokey’s Facebook page on Saturday. – Dan

Mark Nation is best known for his day job as a prominent Central Florida attorney, but it’s his side gig that’s drawing interest and financial support from the city of Sanford.

Two years ago Nation purchased a mostly vacant 1.5-acre city block in downtown Sanford. The block that is bounded on the east and west by Oak and Myrtle avenues, between 2nd and 3rd streets. (“TV personality buys vacant downtown land”)

The property has three buildings totaling 7,254 square feet, including a 4,680-square-foot building that will be renovated as Phase 1 of redeveloping the block.

To accomplish that, Nation will need to demo the inside, including most of the second floor. The finished interior would feature a private second-floor mezzanine seating overlooking the first-floor dining area and open kitchen.

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What 214 S. Oak Ave, looks like currently. Credit: Google Maps

The renovation would also include the addition of a 2-story, 3,300-square-foot outdoor seating area.

The Sanford Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency is supportive of the project and approved $88,000 in grants to help offset facade and redevelopment costs.

Sonia Fonseca, the executive director of the CRA, said the redevelopment grants help spur private investment in downtown Sanford.

“They help act as catalysts for other investments,” said Fonseca.

Nation said the grant is one reason he made the investment

Nation said he has talked with several Orlando-area restauranteurs but has yet to make a choice or determine the type of cuisine.

“The final concept will be a destination restaurant, a place you make a point to visit,” Nation said.

The project is expected to cost about $500,000.

The building is being renovated instead of being demolished because it is located within the city’s commercial historic district, Nation said. In addition, the building has some historic significance. It once belonged to Chase & Co., an agriculture firm founded in 1884, seven years after the city of Sanford was incorporated. Chase & Co. stills operates today as Sunniland Corp.

To that end, Nation said the renovation has received a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Sanford Historic Preservation Board.

As for the vacant property, which makes up about 75 percent of the block, Nation said he’s still developing a vision. Ideally he would like to build a mixed-use or residential project. Nation noted the west side of downtown is begging to experience redevelopment that could make his project more viable.

A new cider-making establishment – Tuffy’s Cidery and Bottle Shop – is opening soon across the street from Nation’s property. One block away, the city’s third brewery, Deviant Wolfe Brewing,  is also expected to open soon and a new hotel is planned in 2018. (“Second hotel coming to downtown?”)

“I don’t have a timeframe for creating a plan, but the bottom line is I want it to be a first-class project,” said Nation.




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