Rob Hawkins
Rob Hawkins recently purchased the building at the northwest corner of 2nd Street and Park Ave. He plans to spend $150,000 renovating the property and open a barbecue restaurant.

Rob Hawkins is an unassuming man. But don’t let his calm demeanor fool you: He’s a man on a mission to rid downtown Sanford of blight.

Hawkins is the owner of Insurance Risk Services, a 35-year-old company that provides field underwriting support for the insurance industry. More importantly, he is the owner of three buildings in the 100 block of Park Avenue.

His most recent purchase is the long under-utilized gas station/bus terminal building at the northwest corner of 2nd Street and Park Avenue.

wops hops
Greg Piecora, left, and Peter Minelga, plan to open Wops Hops Brewing Co. in the Stokes Fish Market building on Sanford Ave.

Greg Piecora evaluated a number of places to locate his business, Wops Hops Brewing Co. Conventional wisdom dictated that Winter Park and Maitland were among the top choices.

Piecora chose Sanford.

“I love a city with personality, and Sanford has personality,” Piecora says. “We could have been anywhere, but this city has a heartbeat. The history, the people, the vibe — this place is real.”

chipotleDining options in Sanford will expand later this summer when two fast-causal restaurants open in the Marketplace at Seminole Towne Center.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which has developed a loyal following for its use of organic ingredients, and Giraffas Brazilian Steaks & Burgers, a new restaurant concept in Central Florida, will open in a newly constructed building located at the 308,571-squre-foot retail center anchored by Target.

The city of Sanford will undertake two trial lighting projects in the coming months, one to improve lighting in the Georgetown neighborhood, and one to measure cost savings of new LED bulbs.

Georgetown resident Toby Wells approached the city several months ago to ask for improved lighting in his neighborhood to improve safety and help with crime prevention.

Sanford City Commissioner Mark McCarty, District 1
Sanford City Commissioner Mark McCarty, District 1

Mark McCarty has yet to meet with city officials to determine what, if any, action needs to be taken after the District 1 Sanford City Commissioner spent $1,500 on a questionable mailing.

Two weeks ago Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett asked City Manager Norton Bonaparte and City Attorney William Colbert to meet with McCarty after discovering McCarty used taxpayer money to mail about 4,000 post cards to newly registered voters in District 1. Triplett also asked McCarty to repay the $1,500 in postage because the expense was not budgeted (“McCarty asked to repay city funds”).

Support Sanford Ave BizWhat a difference a couple of weeks makes.

Business owners along Sanford Avenue were upset when they learned the city of Sanford planned to close their street on March 3 for as long as four months to complete a $2.5 million streetscape project. (“City’s bumbling threatens local businesses”)

Tempers flared at times during a Feb. 25 meeting, the first in series of regularly scheduled meetings between city officials and business owners to discuss the project.

It’s back to the future for downtown Sanford’s newest business.

Rabbitfoot Records Coffee Lounge plans to open Friday, March 7, and sell records – the vinyl kind that require a turntable.

“”We’re not selling CDs. This will be an old-fashioned type record store,” says Rob Wallace, co-owner of Rabbitfoot Records.

By Dan Ping

Seminole County Public School Board members received a briefing Friday morning about potential capital projects the system would undertake if a penny is added to the county’s sales tax.

The list, which has yet to be approved by the board, lays out $157 million in school renovations, including brand new school facilities at Casselberry Elementary and Sanford’s Pine Crest Elementary.

By Dan Ping

Paulii Buster has invested tens of thousands of dollars to turn a vacate space on Sanford Avenue into a sleek, modern Belgium beer pub that regularly draws customers from outside of Sanford — including players from the Orlando City Soccer Club.

When the city of Sanford’s Downtown Waterfront Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) announced it would spend $2.5 million to reconstruct Sanford Avenue to upgrade utilities, widen sidewalks, and enhance lighting and landscaping, Buster knew his business, Buster’s Bistro, would suffer and he made plans to mitigate the construction.

He never thought the work would virtually shut off access to his pub.

By Dan Ping

Food and ice cream vendors may be barred from the north side of Fort Mellon Park in a proposal under consideration by the Sanford City Commission.

In a memo outlining options to increase pedestrian safety around Fort Mellon Park, city staffer Marc Hultin recommends Sanford prohibit mobile food vendors from locating along Seminole Boulevard between Sanford and San Juan avenues.