An economic development agreement between the city council and a local restaurant owner means Sanford’s so-called “federal building” will be the next downtown structure in line for a big makeover.

Under the agreement between the city of Sanford and La Dolce Vita owner Renee Fincher, Fincher will be able to purchase the building at 226 Carthage St. from the city for $80,000. In exchange, she commits to investing $300,000 in building upgrades and providing more than a dozen new jobs which pay at least $10.75 per hour through July of 2020.

The agreement was signed in May and is on file at the Lee County Register of Deeds office.

Fincher said Monday that her plan is to move the pizzeria and Italian restaurant, which has been open in downtown Sanford at the old city hall building since 2001, to the federal building.

“We don’t have a specific timeframe, but we’re probably looking at the nine month range,” Fincher said. “We’ve just started with demolition and asbestos removal, and the architect is coming in next week. We’re really excited.”

The federal building was most recently home to offices for local government agencies including Lee County’s old Economic Development Corporation and Downtown Sanford, Inc. – organizations which vacated the building upon the completion of renovations at the Sanford Buggy Company. Completed in 1937, it was originally home to Sanford’s Post Office until the late 1960s. Later, it housed a variety of federal employees ranging from the draft board to agriculture agents and more. It was this function that earned the facility its moniker of “federal building,” as which it is still informally known today.

The city council has publicly mulled selling the building, which it bought in 1996 for $141,000, since February of last year according to this report in the Sanford Herald (subscription required).

Sanford Herald coverage from 1936 shows an artist’s rendering of the federal building, which had yet to be built. Courtesy of Jimmy Haire.
A year later, in April of 1937, the Herald reported that the building had been completed a month earlier. Courtesy of Jimmy Haire.