Progress Point Bid Withdrawn

Cites City Failure to Clarify Terms of Sale

On February 23, ROC Seniors Housing Fund Manager, LLC, formally withdrew their offer to buy the Progress Point property to build a mixed use development consisting of an assisted living facility, a memory care unit and a restaurant.

To view notice, click here.

The Short End of the Land Swap

Progress Point – that infamous piece of land the City acquired when they traded away the State Office Building property up the road at Morse and Denning. At the junction of Orange and Denning, right beside the railroad tracks, split down the middle by a road, contaminated by heavy metal, it has sat unwanted and unloved since 2011.

For Sale Sign Goes Up April 2015

In April 2015, the City put it up for sale. They advertised in the Sentinel and on Loop Net. Thirty packets containing the Notice of Disposal (NOD) were sent to potential buyers. After 90 days, there was one response.

One Potential Buyer

A proposal was submitted by ROC Seniors for an 82 unit assisted living center with a 32-bed memory care facility and a 6,000-square-foot restaurant. The developer, represented by former Winter Park City Commissioner Phil Anderson, offered $4.5 million which, according to City records, was in keeping with a 2011 appraisal of $4.4 million.

Staff and EDAB Recommend the Project

Both City staff and the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) recommended approval, pointing out that the development would “activate the taxable value,” adding between $71,000 – $86,000 annually to the General Fund. “Staff feels that the project meets the character of Orange Avenue,” read the Agenda Item, “promotes new jobs and creates active redevelopment along Orange Avenue.”

ROC Seniors cited several important benefits their project would bring to the City. There would be no impact on schools. The facility would provide an under-served need for seniors. The project would create greater employment opportunities than other uses and would be an attractive presence consistent with existing Orange Avenue businesses.

Price Just Went Up

On the Friday before the September 14, 2015, Commission meeting, the City received a new appraisal, which had been ordered after the NODs went out. It came in at $5.69 million. As a result, ROC Seniors came before the Commission with an offer that was nearly $1.3 million below what was now the most recent appraisal.

Leary Opposed

A lengthy discussion among the commissioners about whether the proposed use was appropriate for the Orange Avenue corridor began with Mayor Steven Leary’s unequivocal opposition to ROC Seniors’ proposed use.

 

The NOD had contained no guidelines regarding what kind of project the City would like to see there. Public comment, mostly from business owners along Orange Avenue, was heavily in opposition to the project.

ROC Meets the Price

After an acknowledgement from Mr. Anderson that ROC Seniors would meet with City staff to discuss raising their offer to meet the new price, the Commission decided to table the issue and send the question to Planning and Zoning for their opinion on an appropriate use for the  site.

How Did We Reach This Point?

How did such an unlovely site gain $1.3 million in value, you might ask. In a November 5, 2015, letter from ROC Seniors to the City, Anderson points out certain ‘assumptions’ the appraiser used in assigning the $5.69 million value.

  • The City would realign Palmetto Avenue so that it would no longer run through the middle of the property, creating one contiguous piece of land.
  • The City would deliver a “clean, clear site” by removing residual contamination.
  • The City would accommodate storm water offsite.
  • The City would approve a mixed use.

In his letter, Anderson requested the City definitively clarify the appraiser’s assumptions. He also highlighted the need of surrounding businesses, including the Jewett Clinic, for additional parking and suggested the City retain a portion of the Progress Point land for that purpose.

To view the entire letter, click here.

Bottom Line: No Progress on Progress Point

After six months of discussion between the City and ROC Seniors, the City failed to come to a clear decision. The City has not confirmed that it would complete the items on which the appraiser based his valuation, and it has not clarified what kind of use they believe would be appropriate for that site.

“No one has said they want an assisted living facility or a mixed use project on that site,” Anderson told the Voice. “And no one has said they don’t want that kind of project. It’s time for us to move on.”

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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