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SANFORD, FL-Gearing up for an economic recovery in 2004, Seminole County commissioners have agreed to partner with Sanford, FL, the county’s largest city (Pop. 33,000), in developing a $19 million, 63,000-sf Downtown conference center that could attract small business events and broaden the county’s revenue base. The center would be 25 miles north of Downtown Orlando.

The agreement calls for the county to build the structure and for the city to run it. The problem, elected officials of both governments agree, is that neither has existing funds to build or operate the project.

“It will probably take them another six months to figure out how to pay for the venture,” an Orlando industrial real estate broker, not associated with the project, tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

County and city officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. Meanwhile, the county is negotiating a construction management contract with the Maitland, FL office of New York-based Turner Construction Co. At $19 million, the conference center’s estimated construction cost would come in at around $302 per sf, construction industry estimators familiar with comparable projects tell GlobeSt.com. Additional costs for a parking structure have not been determined.

The city is also talking with several national hotel developers to build a hotel next to the proposed center at Sanford Avenue and First Street which faces Lake Monroe and the city’s port.

County commissioners Carlton Henley and Grant Maloy voted against the project because they fear a projected $700,000 tourism tax revenue this year will actually come in at $550,000, a number that would not support the proposed venture. Commissioners Dick Van Der Weide, Randy Morris and Daryl McLain voted for the project.

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