Downtown Orlando Developments

Weddings will be a focus of new downtown Orlando JW Marriott tower

The building is designed with three distinct entrances for the hotel, shown here, the convention center and the residences.

The developers of a new J.W. Marriott Hotel/Convention Center & Residences in downtown Orlando are focusing in on the wedding business as a key revenue stream, based on the design plans submitted to the city for approval.

The city’s Appearance Review Board granted a major certificate of approval for the 33-story mixed-use tower project Thursday with several conditions.


Developers Albert Socol and Marlene Weiss, the husband-wife heads of Summa Development Group, made several revisions to the design over the last two years, since the project received a positive courtesy review from the ARB. A gallery and rooftop sculpture garden featuring works by world-famous glass artist Dale Chihuly were added to house a branch of the Orlando Museum of Art, but then the museum backed out of the project earlier this year.

The rooftop garden and wedding chapel will be visible looking east from Pine Street.

But while the museum branch is gone, the brightly colored rooftop garden remains in the plan as an outdoor event space for the hotel on the roof the 9-story podium of the building, a space that was largely unused in the original building design by DLR Group. The detailed renderings submitted to ARB identify the blue-glass structure as a wedding chapel, and the floorplans call out a designated area in the lobby for wedding check-ins. The wedding chapel and garden will require a separate review, according to ARB Executive Director Richard Forbes.


The hotel portion of the tower comprises 155,628 square feet with 218 guest rooms, 13 suites, a dozen meeting rooms and large and small ballrooms.

“It really will be great to have a JW Marriott and some conference space in the downtown area, so it’s great to see progress being made,” ARB member Patrick Panza said.

Several ARB members complimented architect Steve Cavanaugh for the adjustments he made in response to the courtesy review from two years ago.

“It’s really great to see the things that stuck and the things that have been elevated,” ARB member Clarisse Gates said. “I really like what’s referred to as the wedding chapel on that lower plane. I think it adds a lot of dimension to that part. The whole project is very sculptural. I think they mastered their concept and developed it very strongly.”

SDG is seeking bonuses for density and intensity — a request that comes with certain requirements for elevated architecture, enhanced screening of parking garages and public art. The ARB package identifies two pieces by sculptor Jorge Blanco that will help satisfy the public art component.

A metal sculpture of an orange will be placed in the convention center lobby, and a pair of 9-foot-tall bikers would be erected outside of the condo entrance on Pine Street. The entrance to the hotel lobby would be off Lake Avenue, tucked between two restaurants at the northeast and southeast corners of the building.

A Jorge Blanco sculpture of two bikers, similar to this one in Park City, Utah, is proposed near the entrance to the J.W. Marriott Residences.

“It’s a very handsome building,” ARB member Chad Cowert said. “Congratulations to the developer for getting this convention center, which is something that Orlando really needs.”

Cowert said initially he wasn’t “bought-into” the concept of the rectangular podium with the curved tower on top, but now he believes it makes a nice contrasting statement. “I really love the organic flow of the tower and how the curtain wall hits the ground plane.”


The architectural plans also provide more details for the 113 luxury residences that will share the JW Marriott branding. The lobby will have a concierge station, conference room, three elevators to serve the 16 residential floors and a private entrance to the hotel bar/restaurant. The condo owners will have their own swimming pool separate from the hotel, as well as a private gym, library/card room, massage studio, cafe and sunset lounge on the 19th floor.

The density bonus would have allowed the developer to build up to 300 dwelling units, but SDG opted to go for fewer units with larger floorplans that differ significantly from a typical downtown apartment tower. For starters, there will be no one-bedroom units and only 18 will be two-bedroom units. The rest, 95 in total, will be three-bedroom units. Traditional condo floorplans will be available on floors 17-28. The three top floors are reserved for the building’s 26 penthouse units, several of which have private sky decks. The design even includes one two-story penthouse and a three-story penthouse with an enormous private roof terrace for the owner.

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