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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Seminole Hotel Redevelopment Takes One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

City Rejects Only Response to First RFP

 

Last updated 11/8/2022 at 9:06am

archival photograph

The Seminole Hotel as it it appeared shortly after it was built. The historic building now belongs to the Lake Wales CRA, which is seeking to incentivize a creative reuse of the hotel.

After rejecting the only response received from a private developer regarding the Seminole Hotel, the Lake Wales Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) is taking a completely different approach. The building features prominently in plans for downtown revitalization in the Lake Wales Connected plans.

"We're going to do it all over again," said City Manager James Slaton of the failure of the Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Despite multiple expressions of interest in the property, the only proposal received under the first RFP included requiring the city to demolish and clear the site, which would then have become the location of a new four-story apartment building aimed at "the senior market." That was rejected out-of-hand by commissioners and staff.

"It didn't make sense" to ask each respondent to do their own study, Slaton pointed out, explaining that potential redevelopers were not willing to risk the cost of performing engineering and feasibility studies on a building they may not win. "It's our building, it's our responsibility," he said.

The city commission, sitting as the CRA board, has since approved a full inspection of the building to determine its status and potential, at a cost of $40,000. A marketing report will also be provided as part of the new RFP.

An artist's rendering of what the Seminole Hotel (background) may look like after renovation. The building is a centerpiece of the Lake Wales Connected plan for downtown renewal.

The historic three-story hotel, located on North First Street, was obtained by the City of Lake Wales in December following the filing of a lawsuit over code violations. It was then transferred to the CRA, which asked for proposals from the public for its reuse.

It is hoped that a creative use, such as a mixed use apartment and retail facility, or even a "boutique hotel," may be in the future for the building. The city has been in discussion with consultants about recruiting a boutique hotel for the site, Slaton said. He added that they recognize that a "public-private partnership" may be required to make the project a reality.

"We've been talking to other CRAs that have done similar projects successfully," Slaton said.

Settling the legal action to acquire the building included paying a former owner some $50,000 plus costs and fees.

 

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