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Downtown Orlando could get lux new hotel on Lake Eola

MMI Development is planning this 8-story luxury hotel overlooking downtown Orlando's Lake Eola.
MMI Development is planning this 8-story luxury hotel overlooking downtown Orlando's Lake Eola. (Eley Barkley Dale)

Orlando-based MMI Development has a purchase contract on a coveted piece of downtown real estate and plans to build an 8-story luxury hotel overlooking Lake Eola.

MMI President Mike Wright told GrowthSpotter he’s partnering with a local hotel owner-operator on the deal. Wright would not identify his partner but said the company has extensive experience in the Orlando market, both in hospitality and food and beverage. They hope to capture a slice of the upscale market willing to pay $300 per night room rates.

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“It became fairly apparent to me that I did not want to do a deal downtown unless it was a four-star type rates. So that’s what we’re doing," Wright said.

This is the view of the main entrance and valet parking area along Hillman Avenue.
This is the view of the main entrance and valet parking area along Hillman Avenue. (Eley Barkley Dale)

MMI will file an application this week to change the future land use and zoning. The firm also will submit as a master plan for the project that includes both a hotel and residential component. Wright and his attorneys have held four pre-application meetings with Orlando city planners, most recently in December, and have refined the plans based on staff comments. They would be slated to go to the Municipal Planning Board in March and City Council in April.

The project would rise on a .68-acre lot at the corner of East Robinson Street and Hillman Avenue. The property is currently home to a single-story office building, but it’s next door to the 8-story Reeves House condominium tower.

The proposed hotel would be 107 feet tall at its highest point, but most of the roof heights would range from 73 to 94 feet. The plan calls for approximately 150 guest rooms with valet-served off-site parking. The development team is leaning toward keeping the hotel independent but may seek an affiliation with a national brand, something along the lines of Marriott’s Autograph Collection or Tapestry Collection by Hilton.

The roof level would feature a combination of indoor and outdoor flex space, including this corner tower.
The roof level would feature a combination of indoor and outdoor flex space, including this corner tower. (Eley Barkley Dale)

Wright, who graduated from University of Mississippi, enlisted Oxford-based architecture firm Eley Barkley Dale and gave them free reign to design to hotel. Principal Ross Barkley said the design team used Orlando’s downtown historic district, especially its churches, as inspiration for the design. The concept is a modern take on Moorish architecture, with extensive use of arched doors, windows and balconies and a corner bell tower.

“The city encouraged us to be compatible with the downtown Catholic church that was just renovated,” Wright said. “We’re also near a Catholic school, so we’re going to do something along those lines.”

Barkley said the design must clear the city’s Appearance Review Board and its Historic Preservation Board.

“This is the concept stage of the project,” Barkley said. “As we fine-tune the design, we intend to hold onto as much as you see and to maintain the integrity of the look we have now.”

Wright said they’re already tweaking the plans to rearrange the interior space on the ground floor and roof area. The ground level would feature a full-service restaurant with cafe tables outside, and the team is adding a full-service spa. The open-air roof terrace will have a tapas bar and flexible indoor-outdoor space suitable for meetings and special events.

This is a view of the townhouse concept along E. Ridgewood Street that provides a transition between the single family homes and the 8-story hotel.
This is a view of the townhouse concept along E. Ridgewood Street that provides a transition between the single family homes and the 8-story hotel. (Eley Barkley Dale)

“We’re hoping for it be a destination of sorts for private gatherings and public events,” Barkley said. “We’re hoping to make good exterior use and capitalize on the views.”

Three-story, luxury townhomes would be constructed on the portion of the lot that fronts on E. Ridgewood Street to serve as a transition between the hotel and the residential neighborhood. Each unit would have access from a gated entrance on Hillman and would have a covered parking for two vehicles.

Wright said he would either joint venture on the residential portion or sell the entitled .22-acres lot to another developer with experience in the luxury townhouse space.

Wright said he hasn’t hired a civil engineer yet and will soon be in the market for one.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The unnamed hotel partner is based in Orlando. An earlier version of the story misstated the company’s headquarters.

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Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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