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ORLANDO-Convention centers, big and small, are the name of the game these days as municipalities compete fiercely for new tax revenue and new businesses.

Seminole County, eight miles north and east of Downtown Orlando, is following Osceola County, 20 miles south of Downtown, in commissioning a convention center for Downtown Sanford, FL, the county seat and home of a fast-growing cargo and passenger airport operations.

Lake Mary, FL-based Burke Bales & Mills beat out 10 rivals for the design job of the planned $18 million Sanford center which will be built by the county but operated by the city. The last published size of the center was 43,000 sf, giving the project an unprecedented hard construction cost of $419 per sf.

Burke Bales, county and city officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to verify that estimated cost. But in February of this year, Seminole County was talking of a similar-sized center and a 200-room, seven story hotel for an estimated $55 million.

That deal with Acquest Realty Advisors of Bloomfield Hills, MI has died. But the county is still searching for a hotel developer to erect an inn adjacent to the planned convention center at Sanford Avenue and First Street, on the western side of Fort Mellon Park. The city’s 40-year-old civic center and the Chamber of Commerce building would be demolished to accommodate the new project.

The county and Burke Bales are negotiating a contract and stipulated fee for the convention center venture. If talks break down, the county would meet with its second choice, VOA Associates Inc. of Orlando.

In Osceola County, commissioners are negotiating a similar contract with Orlando-based Xentury City Development Co. for a 500,000-sf, $100 million convention center near Walt Disney World.

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