TFA IV Inc., which is owned by Frank Cerasoli, leases the island from the city. He met with commissioners Monday to discuss the possibility of constructing a convention center on the east side of the island, where an office building now stands.
In the past, Sanford has tried to attract similar development along the waterfront. A few years back, a convention center was proposed in Fort Mellon Park but was met with opposition from the community.
Recently, the city sought to place a similar structure on the old post office property along the lakefront, but did not attract any response.
The new proposal from Cerasoli would include a hotel and convention center with about 150 rooms and 10,000 to 15,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel would include a parking garage.
Before Cerasoli went further in the planning, he said he wanted to meet with commissioners to receive their input. Additionally, there were several technical issues that needed to be resolved before the planning process could progress.
First, Cerasoli requested that the east parcel of the marina have the same 99-year lease as the west side to ensure there are no financial issues with his bank, and to attract development partners. Also, he wanted the city to change the land-use designation to accommodate the proposed project.
He also asked that the city bring the necessary utilities to the site, and implement a plan to promote the use of the conference center, as well as holding city-sponsored events there.
Commissioner Art Woodruff said he was concerned about the competition with the Sanford Civic Center. He suggested that instead of building a new center, maybe money should be put into renovating the civic center.
The commissioners agreed that a conference center and the civic center attracted different crowds and the two would be able to coexist in downtown Sanford.
The commissioners also compared the proposed center to the Orlando Marriott in Lake Mary. Commissioner Velma Williams said, “I think we would really benefit from having the proper center here because I know a lot of people call the Marriott for accommodation and they are booked.”
Cerasoli said the new center would have a larger space and would attract a similar cliental. Additionally, he said the hope would be to attract a national chain to positively impact the economy of Sanford.
Mayor Linda Kuhn said, “It’s too bad that we have to have Sanford events in Lake Mary. If we had a facility like this we’d use it instead.”
Although the planning process is still in a very early stage, all the commissioners seemed amenable to having the center on the island to attract new business to downtown. Cerasoli said it would be about 2½ years before the project could be completed.
Also, if the center is constructed, the Palms Island Resort would be demolished, he said.