Developer files dual-flag hotels plan for downtown Orlando Travelodge site

Bob Moser
GrowthSpotter

A Tennessee-based developer has filed plans for its proposed redevelopment of downtown Orlando's oldest hotel property, pitching two flags for eight stories with a key count that triples what is now offered on site.

GrowthSpotter first reported on Feb. 12 that developer 3H Group had the 1.08-acre parcel under contract at 409 N. Magnolia Ave., based on the northeast corner with E. Livingston Street and directly east of the Orange County Courthouse. 

The property is anchored by the 75-room Travelodge Orlando Downtown and former City Diner, the latter having closed in mid-February. 

A new Master Plan filed Monday with the city proposes a dual-brand hotel with 240 rooms across eight stories. Those would be divided, as of now, between the prospective Hilton flags of Hampton and Home2 Suites. 

Those brands are subject to change, as 3H Group has yet to be fully approved for their use by the parent company. 

The developer's choice of an extended stay flag follows the success of a Residence Inn over the past two years at N. Orange Avenue and Colonial Drive. It should also compliment universal demand for a limited service brand like Hampton, which 3H Group has had success operating in other markets, Director of Development Nick Desai told GrowthSpotter

The new hotels plan includes a rooftop pool, and a small dining outlet in a semi-attached building (3,290 square feet) where the former City Diner building now lies. Further details on how that may be integrated into the hotels have yet to be determined, Desai said.

On-site space for parking would only be able to meet 19 percent of anticipated demand for the two new hotels, so the developer is negotiating with nearby garages to supplement for mandatory valet service.  

3H Group's timeline moving forward on the project all depends on the city's schedule, Desai said. It's first application in March for rezoning and a Future Land Use amendment earned Municipal Planning Board approval on May 15, with final approval anticipated by August. 

Its MP will now enter the next cycle of Municipal Planning Board review, likely July or August. Getting the rezoning fully approved will give 3H Group the confidence to proceed with construction plans, Desai said. 

The developer's closing on the property is anticipated in the third quarter. The Travelodge is currently operating under a Wyndham franchise agreement that is short term, which 3H Group could continue until it is ready to pursue demolition.

The land is owned by three family trusts in a partnership that dates back to the early 1950s. Those trusts are now managed by members of the Ward and Rex families, and four heirs of the William H. Jayne Trust. 

Representatives of the seller and buyer groups have held three community meetings in recent months with members of the neighboring Lake Eola Heights Historic District. 

"The buyers have worked very hard in trying to satisfy the needs of the neighborhood," said Randall Rex, managing director of Integra Realty Resources - Orlando, a full-service appraisal and consulting company, and spokesman for the sellers. 

"I'm really impressed with this buyer group, they've put a lot of time and effort in to meet the desires of the neighbors." 

Some elements of the hotel buildings' design were adapted following  requests by the neighborhood, including a switch to brick from stucco for the exterior. The height of the building would also step down, from about 100 feet along Magnolia Avenue to 76 feet on the eastern side which borders a church.

3H Group owns and operates 20 hotels in six states, five of which are in Florida, with two in Altamonte Springs. The company's development niche is focused on select- and limited-service hotels, working primarily with Marriott and IHG flags.

The downtown Travelodge site would be 3H Group's second and third hotel project in Orlando. Its market entry is a planned 148-key TownePlace Suites on 2.31 acres under contract from North American Properties, within the mixed-use "Grand National" project on the north end of International Drive.

3H Group is now on a first round of comments from city staff for its construction plan submittal, Desai said. Closing on that land is also anticipated in the third quarter following building permit approval.

A general contractor has yet to be chosen for the TownePlace Suites, with the developer planning to seek bids after its second round of staff comments, he added. 

Jordan Companies is civil engineer on 3H Group's downtown Orlando project, Atlanta-based Lindsay Pope Brayfield Clifford & Assoc. the architect and St. Cloud-based Fisher Planning and Development Services the planner. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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