California-based Vivo Living, which specializes in hotel conversions, paid $10.5 million this month for the Ramada Inn at 4018 W. Vine Street in Kissimmee.
“This will be our 12th acquisition under Vivo and our first in Florida,” Finance Director Akash Rohera told GrowthSpotter. “We have assets all over the country. We’re nationwide.”
The company was formed in June 2020 to “recycle” hotel and motel properties into affordable workforce housing. Vivo follows a similar template as other conversion companies, focusing exclusively on studio or micro-unit apartments that rent for less than $1,000 a month. An additional $150 monthly fee covers utilities, trash collection, cable and wifi.
President Dan Norville likes to say Vivo doesn’t refer to its product as affordable housing. “It’s value housing, reasonable housing for people that need these things,” he told Yahoo! Finance.
Built in 1988, the 223-key hotel sits on nearly 4.5 acres in the city’s Vine Street Overlay, just east of Hoagland Boulevard. It consists of a 5-story and 3-story building and an on-site restaurant. The property is in the Kissimmee city limits, which means it is not subject to the recent Osceola County moratorium on hotel conversions or the proposed building regulations set to go before county commissioners on Monday.
“There’s 223 keys that will be converted one-to-one to all studios,” Rohera said. “So there’s no merging of rooms or anything — just all micro units. And we throw in a kitchenette. We replace the hotel carpet with new flooring. We repaint everything and make the bathroom and everything look nice inside, and then we pretty much look like a regular apartment.”
The developer plans to install a game room, co-working space, leasing office and a grab-and-go market in the existing lobby. The restaurant will be shut down and converted into a flex space. The property also has a pool and jacuzzi that will be refreshed. Each Vivo conversion also features self-storage lockers that will be available to tenants for an additional monthly fee.
“We really try to make our communities cheap and affordable for renters, but with the common areas we go all out, and that’s what really drives our renter pool,” he said.
Vivo received $16.5 million in financing through a fund managed by LaSalle Debt Investors, but Rohera said the final budget for the project should be in the mid-$20 million range.
Craig Holland, development services director for the city, said the hotel used to be a Four Points Sheraton before being rebranded as a Ramada Inn. For years it was the spring training home for the Houston Astros when they trained at Osceola Heritage Park. Holland said his staff has had preliminary conversations with the developer and confirmed that the site is properly zoned to allow for a residential conversion.
“We have form-based zoning along Vine Street. It does allow for multifamily zoning,” Holland told GrowthSpotter. “Of course, they would have to meet all the standards we have for multifamily. That includes the open-space requirements, which could be active or possible recreation spaces. If the building isn’t sprinkled, they would have to retrofit it with sprinkler system.”
The Kissimmee hotel already has a sprinkler system and fire panel, so the retrofit won’t be necessary. One of the largest expanses will be the $12,065 per unit school impact fee, which translates to $2.77 million for the property.
Osceola Commissioners are scheduled to consider an ordinance regulating hotel and motel conversions in unincorporated parts of the county, which includes most of the W192 tourism corridor.
The draft ordinance redefines multi-family residential development to include any properties within the E192 Community Redevelopment Area or the W192 Community Redevelopment Area that under a change in use from non-residential to residential. That means residential conversions would have to meet the same development standards as new construction, including a minimum density of 30 dwelling units per acre.
The ordinance also creates a strict set of building standards for motel conversions, including the requirement that all living units have fully functioning kitchens with a sink, refrigerator and stove/oven. Each unit also must have separate electric and water meters. Balconies must be at least 6 feet deep and a minimum of 60 square feet in size.
Building exteriors would need to undergo a significant alteration to distinguish the property from other hotels. For example, building facades would have to be divided into a base, middle and top and incorporate jogs with different materials to create visual interest. Windows could not be flush with the wall, so they would need to either be slightly recessed project out from the main wall as bays.