Progress Point Bid Withdrawn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.
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.”
Maybe if Winter Park made a law prohibiting current or former City Commissioners from participating in the purchase of City property, we’d have better Commissioners and wouldn’t have to waste so much time listening to their nauseating spin on these matters near Election Day.
It appears that our politicians aren’t always as much concerned with maintaining Winter Park as the “crown jewel,” as they are with walking off with Winter Park’s crown jewels – its public lands.
I’ve watched this form of cronyism for over a decade and it costs taxpayers heavily as we suffer the consequences of the Mayor favoring his friends. Look around, it’s everywhere.
It prevents Class A development as competitors are pushed away. See empty building on corner of Morse and Denning.
Urban Dictionary definition
“Good old boys” is a term for a tight clique of male friends. They are usually friendly to others but at the same time the “good old boys” will often turn on others who aren’t a member of their club.”
Billy Bob got the promotion and I didn’t even though I have more experience and education because he is a part of the “good old boys” network.
The “bait and switch” that Mayor Leary perpetrated is disturbing. He should have recused himself from the discussion since he is part owner of a property, Lumberyard, on the Orange Ave. corridor.
The Progress Point property has sat vacant for far too long. The City staff and the esteemed Economic Development Board (of his appointments) endorsed this project. Mr. Anderson, in good faith, was the only reply to the Notice of Disposal of 30 inquiries. What happened to welcoming those who invest in our community?
To fixate on making this a “designer row” is foolhardy. This corridor has a variety of businesses…Jewett Orthpedic Clinic, Dr.s offices, banks, car repair, Goodwill, design…a healthy diversity, like a sound financial portfolio, in the event a single segment of the business industry tanks. In an economic downturn, home sales, furniture, design businesses are the first to feel the pinch…people can wait. Health care, food, elder care…enduring businesses that withstand the inevitable swings in Fla. economy. Moreover, Jewitt is comprised of independent physicians. Could there be concern that this world class group of doctors might compete with the Florida Hospital monopoly? What better City planning than “walkable” neighborhoods with your physician right across the street.
With SunRail maintenance & operating expenses coming due (since no dedicated funding) and the $24m deficit, I hope we start thinking about our other financial obligations. In the August 24 workshop Leary pushed putting $1.2m into a dying business with facilities closing area wide, the golf course. Leary justified the expense citing revenue from the sale of the Progress Point property. Mr. Anderson has withdrawn his proposal, did we miss a “bird in the hand”?
Denying Phil Anderson the opportunity, Leary seemed to welcome Chuck Whitall’s purchasing the property, granting the project of increased density. Whitall’s architectural and planning skills are on display at Trader Joe’s…something to look forward to! That corner of 17-92 is not something we should repeat on Orange Ave.
Leary is voting his pocketbook, again! Baseball, now this.
ROC ultimately agreed to pay current appraised value, so no one, former commissioner or otherwise, is robbing any “Crown Jewels”. As for Sandy W, suggest you view the video which clearly shows Mayor Leary objecting to the project , NOT supporting it. Developers don’t always get what they propose, the process seemed to have worked here, though perhaps another workshop or two with staff would have ironed out issues. Looks like the City now has to start over and proactively seek a developer with a plan they can support.
SCS, perhaps you misunderstood me.
Phil Anderson is a respected developer not in Leary’s good old boys club, therefore, Leary rejected Mr. Anderson’s proposal. Read definition above.
What kind of business policy are we creating when the Mayor does a bait and switch at the llth hour on a respected developer who is known for his quality work.
Weldon promises more of the same if elected since he is in lock step with Mayor Leary’s philosophies.
I agree with GC, crafting an exclusive design district isn’t economically prudent. This kind of market is very susceptible to economic downturns like construction and will be the first to tumble.
The concept of a senior care project flanked by WP Hospital and Florida Hospital makes a lot of sense.
There is no excuse for this slick maneuvering by the Mayor other than he’s unwilling to play fairly with people outside his regime.
Thanks for your clarification Sandy W, I see your point now. I also endorse GC’s comments fully. The City needs to be flexible in its consideration of use here, and not get too selective. The market will tell us what is right for this site, subject to reasonable design and intensity guidance from the City. Looking forward to seeing it developed in a responsible way, maybe the City should re-engage with Mr. Anderson.
To SandyW, SCS and GC: I attended the Commission meeting where Commissioner Cooper presented a motion to approve moving forward with the initial bid even though a higher appraisal was known. In fact, I went on record questioning Commissioner Cooper’s decision given her experience as a contracts negotiator at Lockheed Martin, but Mayor Leary, rightly so, asked that I not go there. However, after I apologized, I still went on record as opposing the approval for a lower bid.That aside, I was one of many Orange Avenue property and business owners opposing the project for numerous reasons, mostly having to do with the investment many of us had to make (not the City) for Orange Avenue improvements that would be in keeping with the Developer’s Row vision. As for the Progress Point property, it seems to me the issue always goes to why developers develop: to make a profit. And that implies zoning that will “make the numbers work.” Not something I hear included in arguments posted here. As GC might have us believe, Mayor Leary was not the only one who voted to allow Trader Joe’s (can you say Commissioner Cooper, maybe McMacken?)). Finally, if I recall, at the same Commission meeting Commissioner Cooper asked Mayor Leary to recuse himself due to conflict of interest, the City attorney disagreed, and her request was denied. All in all, I agree the issue of developing Progress Point should be revisited, but without the innuendo and political posturing.
I am torn about this as I believe it could have been a lovely project and so needed for our seniors but I also acknowledge the City should be responsible and not sell below the appraisal as it would be fiscally irresponsible. I wish the developer and the City could renegotiate but at the true value of the property. However, I understand that nearby businesses were unhappy. I don’t know whether or not this was the best project that would be possible on this site but it did sound nice to me.
Cooper did not suggest we sell below appraisal. She asked the city to go back and renegotiate in light of the higher appraisal. Phil Anderson came back and met the higher numbers and Leary still kicked the project to the curb reminding us all that the city is not desperate need for money. I presume he is waiting for a deal that better suits his pocketbook, not the city’s