Osceola wants private sector to build up to 3 hotels at Heritage Park, Judge Farm

Osceola County is seeking experienced hotel development groups to build and manage as many as three hotels - including two full-service hotels - at Osceola Heritage Park and the adjacent Judge Farm property.

The county's procurement staff is putting the final touches on a request for letters of interest (RFLOI) for hotel partners for the facility on US 192 E. The document, obtained exclusively by GrowthSpotter, identifies the first site as a 2-3 acre parcel adjacent to the OHP exhibition hall and Silver Spurs Arena. 

"This hotel is slated to be an upscale conference center hotel for executive attendees of events at OHP and the surrounding area," it reads. Services should include multiple food offerings and amenities such as pool, spa, fitness center, meeting space, valet parking, concierge service, room service and "contemporary furnishings."

The 168-acre park houses the 11,000-seat arena, the Houston Astros training facility (through 2016), an agricultural center, a 90,000-square-foot exhibit hall and multiple recreational fields.

"We just need someplace nice," Strategic Initiatives Director Jeff Jones told GrowthSpotter. He said even people in the cattle industry have a need for a hotel that serves business travelers in this part of the county.

"I was talking to the Chapmans the other day, and they do business with people from all of the country and Brazil," he said. "There's nowhere for them to stay in that part of the county. We can't have everyone stay at the Gaylord." 

A second, upper midscale hotel could be located on a 3-4 acre site at the intersection of Fortune Road and US 192. The third site would be across US 192 on the Judge Farm property that will be home to the Florida Advanced Research and Manufacturing Center. This hotel is conceived as an upscale conference hotel for executives working with the research and manufacturing businesses at Judge Farms and surroundings areas.

"It’s overly needed," Commissioner Brandon Arrington said. "One of the issues we have with that facility and being able to rent it out to conventions is the lack of a top-notch hotel. And with the investment we’re doing right across the street, there will be a need for business travelers."

OHP Marketing Director Rich Mastroberte said having onsite hotels is critical, and it's the first thing event promoters and organizers ask about when looking to book the facility. "It would be a terrific boost for OHP," he said.

County officials kept the hotel descriptions relatively generic to try to generate as much interest as possible. "We’re eager to get it out and see what the reaction is," Planning Director Kerry Godwin said.

Respondents will be expected to provide a detailed list of the team members, organizational structure, experience and financing. They should provide a hotel brand and renderings or photos of projects completed within the last 10 years.

The county is looking specifically for hoteliers with experience in developing public/private partnerships, conference center hotels and hotels located in research parks/mixed use developments. Applicants who meet all of the criteria will receive the highest ranking and could be asked to submit a formal proposal.

The RFLOI indicates that the county could enter into negotiations "solely on their initial response" to the request. However, it doesn't offer any specifics on the county's financial obligation, lease terms or potential incentives. 

Nick Jones, an associate with Colliers International hospitality division, said he expects the RFLOI to generate substantial interest among the limited-service hotel sector. "Most business travelers today aren't really looking for a full-service type hotel," he said. "The limited service hotels offer a consistent product. They're very efficient to run and an overall easier development plan."

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