For the low, low price of $3 million, you could be the next owner of the parcel that once housed the Hotel Putnam in Downtown DeLand.
Earlier this week, a for-sale sign sprung up outside of the dirt lot that, as of just last month, no longer boasts the 100-year-old hotel. The building was torn down when an engineer reported that it had become structurally unsound and could collapse at any time.
Realtors with Colliers are hopeful that Florida’s hot real estate market will lead to a quick sale.
“Developers are still very active in these challenging times. They’re looking beyond what people think will be a short-term recession,” Colliers Executive Vice President Casey Babb told The Beacon. “Florida continues to grow very well, and we don’t see that slowing down in Central Florida.”
The location is a prime piece of real estate, he said, and he thinks the City of DeLand will be receptive to a housing project that looks to capitalize on the Putnam’s history, possibly allowing as many as 120 units on the site, which has Downtown Commercial zoning and is in the Downtown Historic District.
Real estate firm Axia Partners purchased the building in September 2021 for $2.3 million. When The Beacon spoke with a representative from the company in January, he said the plan, if the building were to come down, would be to build something “meaningful” in its place.
A representative from the company was unable to immediately be reached.
Before the Hotel Putnam was torn down, the property was originally listed for $4 million in December, Babb said.
Why the change in price? It would have been cheaper to rehabilitate the old building than build a new one, he explained.
“… we lost a lot of concrete and steel, which adds to the construction costs for a new development,” Babb said. “A new development, though, will be easier to do than the rehab of the 100-year-old building. In the end, the finished product will be more functional and, again, if it looks similar, that would be kind of cool.”
It is time for the City to share with Community a detailed list of what the Comprehensive Plan says about this site, what any Downtown plans or policies say about this site, what any Code sections apply to the development of this site, and thereby, what currently can be built on this site. It is important that the Community know NOW what is allowed so they can better understand the impact of proposed changes in the regulations and policies impacting this site. Before the politicians make changes, and then say that they can do nothing because that is what is allowed by right on the site–the Community must monitor from now on what overt and covert actions are being taken in relation to this site.
It would also be the honorable thing to do to have current and past elected officials explain to the Community how they sat across the street and allowed the Hotel Putnam to be so neglected when they had the AFFIRMATIVE DUTY to preserve the Hotel Putnam. How did they have this duty–by their own plans and policies!
The Downtown CRA adopted the Downtown Redevelopment Plan in June 1985. This Plan is not available on the City’s web page, but the CRA Downtown Redevelopment Plan Update was adopted June 6, 2005, and is available on the City’s web page.
The mission statement of the Downtown Redevelopment Plan is as follows:
“Support and enhance the continuing economic development of downtown
DeLand while protecting and promoting its historic heritage.”
The Plan Update included a list of seven key redevelopment objectives for Downtown DeLand. (See Section 3.2.) Two of those CRA objectives are:
“• Protect the urban scale and historical character
• Create a civic destination around two historically significant buildings
– the Athens Theater and the Putnam Hotel”
There are eight (8) specific objectives of this Plan Update listed on page 24 (Section 3.4A). Two of direct relevance are:
“• Promote preservation and enhancement through redevelopment of
• Provide standards of “historic appropriateness” for redevelopment
and alteration of historic buildings.”
So, for decades, why was the Hotel Putnam neglected in spite of these clear policy directives? Why is the Athens Theater still with us but the Hotel Putnam is not?
Inquiring minds need to know, and hopefully those who have been in charge and are in charge now can explain how this demolition by neglect of the Hotel Putnam has come to be their legacy when the current history of DeLand is written.
What could be the future of the site–Putnam Park. Go to the Axia Partners web site-https://www.axiapartners.com/
The web page states under Value Creation: “Our investment philosophy is centered around actively creating value in the properties we acquire rather than leaving our fortunes to the whims of market appreciation. We plan to leave a lasting legacy in the market by building meaningful properties and experiences. We also are committed to bringing value for our investors beyond just financial returns as we look to educate and edify at every point of the process.” Read this quote carefully, and then read it again. The lasting legacy Axia Partners can create for themselves and their investors is to donate the $3 million property to DeLand for a City Park, “Putnam Park, a gift of Axia Partners.” Then the company and its investors can take a tax deduction for this charitable contribution. This would truly “leave a lasting legacy in the market”!!
The City of DeLand lacks a nice sized open space downtown. Every great city has been built around nice and inviting open spaces. The City of DeLand should purchase the land so the City can have control over what happens there. I think the preferred location for a nice downtown park would be the property where the old jail is located and that could be achievable if the Glass House deal fails and I hope it does. If the Glass House deal goes through the Putnam property would be a nice second choice for a downtown park and events venue. DeLand having control of the Putnam property would be a win one way or the other. We need visionaries and the City and the County need to start thinking and planning ahead. There have been far too many missed opportunities and we often find governments paying far too much for land because of a lack of vision. Our elected leaders need to end the trend of trying to cover almost every available inch of land with concrete.
Downtown Parks and open space would be great but unfortunately the City Commission has given away 12+ million dollars in tax revenues that could pay for these items to the Framework Apartment Developer and DeLand Common Developer. At the same time the City Commission has saddled DeLand with a future parking deficit and gave away a potential open space park site on Church Street behind closed doors.
Dear OJ and KLC: Note that the “commitment” made by the City Commissioners siting as the Downtown CRA Board of Commissioners to transfer $9.5 million dollars from the County and the City General Funds that were deposited into the CRA’s slum and blight alleviation/affordable housing Trust Fund to fund this “incentive” to Framework is very, very problematic. Section 163.355 of the Florida Community Redevelopment Act of 1969 makes it very clear that ad valorem funds transferred from the County and City General Funds and deposited into the Downtown DeLand CRA Trust Fund are to be used for the “prevention and elimination of slums and blight” and for the “elimination or improvement” of the “severe shortage of housing affordable to residents of low and moderate income.” In addition, these slum and blight alleviation/affordable housing Trust Funds can only be used “in areas in which such tax base is declining.” The Bank of America building is neither slum or blighted property. The proposed housing is not for affordable housing. And the Downtown CRA area does not have a declining tax base. So, the $9.5 million may not legally be coming from the CRA’s slum and blight/affordable housing Trust Fund, and if the funds are to be given to Framework, they will have to come from the City of DeLand General fund. Under Florida law, the CRA is not an economic development agency allowed to provide economic development incentives. However, the City of DeLand does qualify and therefore can legally provide these incentives–$9.5 million dollars of General Fund money. See Florida Statutes Section 288.075. Note that under this section of Florida law, since the CRA is not an economic development agency, there can be no claim of “propriety confidential business information” for any and all communication between Framework and the CRA. A public information request can therefore yield any and all communication between Framework and the CRA–correspondence, e-mails, documents, text messages, hand written notes in files, etc. Also, do think about all this in relation to the “incentives” provided to GlassHouse, and also think about if after more than 30 months, and all of the changes requested by GlassHouse from the terms that served as the basis of the Acquisition and Redevelopment Agreement of July 9, 2020. Has the time passed and the substantial changes requested by GlassHouse rendered the Agreement void? A key question is the Section 3.1 property flipper’s clause that allows GlassHouse to flip the Agreement prior to the “termination” of the Agreement. Perhaps at this point it is time for a public workshop and an analysis of the validity of the Agreement. Then, perhaps, it may also be time to reconsider the use of the site–either for a public park as KLC suggests or to undertake an adaptive re-use study for the most appropriate use of this historically significant structure.
Dear Friends; When I think about the Downtown DeLand CRA’s efforts to provide $9.5 in slum and blight/affordable housing Trust Fund money to Framework for the demolition and relocation of the Bank of America and the provision of market rate housing–a decision made at a “Special Meeting” with little or no real Community involvement, it brought to mind an editorial from the Miami Herald about the operation of CRA’s following a Miami-Dade County Grand Jury investigation of CRAs. Below I have cut and pasted a copy of the Editorial. It is well worth the time to read, and to think about how CRA Trust Funds are used in DeLand. In an effort at full transparency, know that the State’s Attorney Katherine Rundle asked me to serve as a Subject Matter Expert for this Grand Jury. MIAMI HERALD / EDITORIAL FEBRUARY 7, 2016 12:00 PM
CRA FUNDS NOT ALWAYS HELPING THE POOR
Eliminating poverty remains the noble goal of the well-funded entities called community redevelopment agencies. But helping low-income residents lead self-sufficient lives, in housing they can afford, hasn’t always been the result.
A Miami-Dade grand jury report came down hard on local CRAs, saying that they were just this side of being “slush funds” for the elected officials who are in charge of doling out millions in property taxes diverted from general revenue for the purpose of eliminating “slum and blight.” Also, there’s little transparency in how these property-tax funds are spent.
The money has, indeed, rejuvenated huge swaths of neglected areas, especially in downtown Miami and Overtown. For all the benefits that have been realized, they have come at the expense of the very residents that CRA money is supposed to help. Eliminating the problems of slum and blight too often looks like eliminating any possibility that they can afford to live in what are now highly developed, expensive neighborhoods.
But the state’s CRA enabling statute’s wording is so vague that it’s hard to argue that, for instance, an art museum in downtown Miami is not a far better use of the land that, as Bicentennial Park, was home to the homeless and not much more. The Frost Museum of Science, under construction and, more significant, underfunded, hopes the county signs off on Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposal to use CRA funds to help with operations once it’s open. Yes, there is precedent, but county commissioners have an obligation to take seriously museum advocates’ promise to raise private funds for the structure. Commissioners, after all, are among those who are responsible for the damning grand jury report.
Because the statute lacks specifics, CRA supporters get to interpret the language to mean whatever they want. “CRAs often times spend money and find a way to say it fits within ‘the approved community redevelopment plan,’ ” the report said. “We learned of a wide range of projects, events, services and acquisitions in which spending was justified only when the interpretation of community redevelopment plans was stretched beyond the pale.” As evidence, the grand jury cited “fairs, carnivals and community entertainment” as dubious beneficiaries of CRA largesse.
CRAs are not really the problem, the people who run them are. City and county commissioners also make up CRA membership, with little, if any, citizen involvement. This increases elected officials’ power exponentially. Wearing their CRA hats, they approve the initiatives that will get funding. As commissioners, they approve those approvals. A commissioner’s pet project simply can’t lose.
And this: “The CRA statute does not require agencies to engage in a formal bidding process when spending monies,” the report found. “That means those who operate CRAs, or the board members who approve expenditures, are free to solicit a particular person or company to do a specific project without a competitive bidding process.”
And we all know what that can mean: “cronyism, collusion, inflated or exorbitant costs as well as other issues that lead to corrupt practices.”
It’s highly doubtful that, given their composition, CRAs will self-correct, ensuring more transparency, appointing community members to the boards and providing more affordable housing. That’s a job for the state Legislature, one it should take most seriously.