Sanford Housing Authority reaches agreement to purchase Wilrik Hotel building

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 07:03 PM

After several years of discussions, the Sanford Housing Authority has reached an agreement to purchase a downtown landmark.

During Sanford City Council's Law and Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, Housing Authority Executive Director Ken Armstrong said the authority is finalizing plans to purchase the Wilrik Hotel building, located at 152 S. Steele St.

"After what seems like hundreds of phone calls with Progress Energy, we've come to an agreement and offer," Armstrong said. "They sent the offer back with some changes and, now, they've accepted our offer to purchase the Wilrik Hotel."

Armstrong did not state the authority's offer to Progress Energy, which currently owns the building, and couldn't be reached for comment after the meeting. The offer is set to be discussed during the council's upcoming meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Sanford Municipal Center, located at 224. E. Weatherspoon St.

The Housing Authority does intend to invest anywhere from $50,000 to $75,000 into the property for exterior work, new lighting, painting, pressure cleaning and community spaces, Armstrong said.

"One thing council needs to understand is this property is tied up in some tax credits and regulations," Armstrong said. "Unfortunately, we are tied to the restrictions and have to continue to use it for low-income or affordable housing."

After five years, if the Housing Authority can move the 41 low-income housing units to another area, work can begin to restore the Wilrik Hotel and be used for higher-end apartments, Armstrong said.

"For anyone who hasn't been over there in four or five years, there are issues for sure," he said. "But there is so much potential for it to become a showcase for downtown."

Armstrong and the Sanford Housing Authority have been interested in purchasing the property from Progress Energy for several years and made an official offer in 2011.

The building, built in 1925, was a bustling hotel which also housed a variety of stores and county building offices, said Sanford City Councilman Jimmy Haire.

"Armstrong is a talented person," Haire said. "People from across the nation are sent here to see how he does things."

Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive agreed and said she was excited to see Armstrong's plan for the hotel.

"I trust he had a plan and a vision," she said. "He's proved himself trustworthy to bring dignity to affordable housing."