SANFORD, Fla. – Visit the Seminole Towne Center and empty stores mirror a trend at shopping centers and malls across the country: some shoppers are simply spent with brick-and mortar.
On Monday night, Sanford’s Director of Planning, Amye King addressed the dwindling department stores directly to city commissioners for the first time.
King told News 6 she was tapped by the city manager to bring ideas to the table about where she and her staff think the future of the property lies. The move came after majority owners of the Seminole Towne Center submitted a proposal which could get the property re-zoned for any number of ideas.
“This is the largest stretch of retail, the highest and best use of I-4,” King told Commissioners. “Sanford deserves the best.”
According to King, mall owners suggested a number of different options for repurposing the center, including a housing development, education center, medical building and storage facility.
“We are not fond of outdoor storage or displays,” said King. “This is prime real estate for the city of Sanford.”
King and her staff also noted they do not recommend the space for “festivals, carnivals” or for automotive purposes, like a commercial car lot.
The discussion is just in the beginning stages however, and ultimately the decision about what to do with the property, if anything, would fall on the owner since the property is privately owned.
News 6 found majority owner Kohan Retail Investment Group bought Seminole Towne Center for roughly $52.3 million right after the coronavirus pandemic began. Records show the property deed was transferred in lieu of foreclosure.
Kohan did not respond to our request for comment.
“Knowing this is private property, we cannot be the dictators,” King told commissioners. “We have to leave the list of uses open, wide open.”
But owners of the mall may want to look locally at other struggling area malls. For example, the Oviedo Mall repurposed its defunct Macy’s store into apartments earlier this year.
When News 6 asked shoppers what they think should happen to Seminole Towne Center, we got a mixed bag of answers.
“There is nothing wrong with it that I’m aware of. I shop here all the time,” said Mary Manley, a lifetime Sanford resident.
“As long as it is something for the people to stay entertained with and, you know, something to go and do in Sanford, that would be nice,” said 20-year-old Emily Bieganowski, who noted she would shop at other plazas if the mall was repurposed.
Another family wanted different brand-name stores.
“We pick other malls first over this one,” said Neomi Zepeta, who is 26 years old.