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The old Mystery Fun House (star) building near Universal Studios sits on 5.5 acres of prime real estate. The parent company of Westgate Resorts plans to demolish the building.
The old Mystery Fun House (star) building near Universal Studios sits on 5.5 acres of prime real estate. The parent company of Westgate Resorts plans to demolish the building. (Orange County Property Appraiser/staff edit)

Almost two decades after shutting down the Mystery Fun House attraction near Universal Studios, the parent company of Westgate Resorts is seeking a permit from City of Orlando to demolish the building.

The building sits on 5.66 acres at 5767 Major Boulevard, between S. Kirkman Road and Interstate 4, just two blocks from Universal Studios. Central Florida Investments bought the fun house in 1983 for $800,000, about the same time it was breaking into the timeshare business.

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The company operated the attraction for over 20 years, adding a wizard head to the roof, a dinosaur-themed miniature golf course and a “starbase omega” space-themed laser tag dome in the early during its heyday in 1980s. It was a popular hangout for teens and tourists alike and brings back fond memories for Orlando natives, but more recently had been repurposed as a training center for Westgate employees.

“Back in the day, when I was a kid, my parents used to drop us off there for a couple of hours,” recalls David Gabbai, director of retail services for Collier’s International. “My youth group used to go there every year. I can still visualize the old sorcerer on the roof.”

Now he values the land, and its proximity to the theme parks and the new I-4 interchange. “It’s a good piece of dirt.”

VHB’s Joe Kolb, who works with Westgate on master planning its properties throughout the state, said the company has no immediate plans to redevelop the site. The property was on the market in 2017 but is not currently listed. The laser tag dome was demolished in 2018 after it was damaged during Hurricane Irma.

Kolb said CFI President David Siegel has not asked him to master plan the site, but he thinks it would be suitable for any use that supports the tourist industry.

“At this point, they’re just getting rid of an eyesore,” Kolb told GrowthSpotter. “I don’t think he’s looking to sell the property …maybe at some point down the road. They prefer to hold and redevelop over time.”

While a hotel pad might be the obvious choice, the window for such a project may have closed, according to Paul Sexton, vice president of HREC and an expert in the hospitality industry. That’s largely due to the massive influx of new mid-price hotel product by Universal.

“We’re getting to a point in the cycle where there is a fair amount of proposed hotel, especially within the Universal submarket,” Sexton said. “One would have to do a careful feasibility study at this point to see if the rooms make sense.”

There’s a limited number of available mid-scale brands in that submarket, and the neighborhood isn’t appropriate for upscale, luxury brands. He thinks the site might be better suited for retail and restaurant uses that could support the hotels surrounding it.

But Gabbai believes it could support a new Westgate tower, and he speculates that the company has been holding to the property and waiting for the new I-4 Ultimate interchange at Kirkman and the overpass at Grand National Drive to open.

“It makes a lot of sense for Westgate to build a timeshare resort there,” he said. “Now that the infrastructure is meeting its maturation point, it has access to I-Drive, and that segment of I-4 will be done in about three years. Once that interchange has full access, the complexion of that area changes considerably. David Siegel is very smart, and he has smart people working for him. Westgate landbanked it for a reason."

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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