Waldorf Astoria Orlando owner files plan to expand ballroom & event space

Bob Moser
GrowthSpotter

The owner of the neighboring Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek filed plans Friday to expand the hotels' joint event space, the latest in a wave of local full-service properties investing to draw more group and business travelers. 

Located at 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, the two hotels boast more than 1,500 rooms together across 17- and 14-story towers built in 2009 on 28.45 acres. The hotels are connected by a shared conference center and neighbor a 170-acre, 18-hole golf course. 

The Development Plan proposes an expansion to the shared ballroom space in two separate buildings totaling 91,000 gross square feet, of which 36,900 square feet would be utilized for back-of-house and other ancillary uses. The new buildings will cover an additional 1.91 acres. 

The new rentable area of 54,100 square feet would be focused primarily in a new waterfront ballroom. A hotel spokesman said Friday the expansion work would likely not be completed until 2020. 

The Waldorf Astoria and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek currently offer a combined 174,000 square feet of multi-functional meeting space.

This DP also includes modifications to holes 17 and 18 of the existing golf course, because the larger of the two expansion buildings would be built over part of a current stormwater pond and golf course hole. 

The property is owned by an affiliate of Virginia-based Park Hotels & Resorts, a publicly traded REIT that also owns locally the 814-room Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, and a 20 percent interest in the 1,417-room Hilton Orlando. 

Expansion plans for the Waldorf Astoria and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek join a growing number of full-service hotels in Orlando's tourism corridor that have focused on new meeting space in the past two years.

Plans were filed in mid-January to expand ballroom and convention center space at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Lake Buena Vista, and the Caribe Royale Orlando hotel on World Center Drive.

In May 2017, owners of the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld filed plans to expand that hotel's ballroom-area meeting space by nearly 40 percent

Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate concluded more than $40 million in investments last year made over 17 months, which included a 100,000-square-foot expansion at the adjacent Osceola County Conference Center. 

A business-traveler focused expansion was being considered for Reunion Resort last year. And in 2016, new owners of the Doubletree by Hilton Orlando at SeaWorld initiated a $30 million renovation project that included new ballroom and outdoor meeting space.

And directly east of the Waldorf Astoria and Hilton Orlando in the Bonnet Creek Resort area, developer DCS Real Estate Holdings has site work underway for a new 16-story JW Marriott Bonnet Creek with 50,000 square feet of meeting space, estimated last year for completion in late 2019.

The wave of investment by full-service properties in meeting space supports the notion that the group sales market is still strong in Orlando, even as national figures show it softening elsewhere, said Paul Sexton vice president of HREC Investment Advisors, a national brokerage offering consulting, development and asset management services to the hotel industry.

"It's important because they can make more money off of a group traveler than a transient one, typically with a higher rate booked and the ancillary revenue of meeting space rental and food and beverage," he told GrowthSpotter in January. "Everyone is recognizing the same thing in this market, and it makes sense to invest from that income perspective."

Baker Barrios is the architect and landscape architect for the Waldorf Astoria expansion plans, Donald W. McIntosh Associates is civil engineer, and Sims Wilkerson Cartier Engineering is the electrical engineer. 

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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