It's been two weeks since the Hawthorn Suites Kissimmee Gateway opened, and General Manager Pauli Perera stepped out of the newly constructed lobby Friday to announce that the extended-stay hotel is fully booked.
To grasp the significance of that statement, you'd have to know that a year and half ago, the hotel was considered one of the largest blights on the entire W192 tourism corridor.
Long-time hotelier Mohammed Jumani bought the 390-room motel on Reedy Creek Boulevard in 2016 for $2.4 million cash. The former "Toscana Suites" was condemned and on the verge of racking up $1,500 per day in fines.
Jumani signed a consent order pledging to clean up the property, file a Site Development Plan and start construction within six months. He knew it was a risk, but the Pakistani-born construction magnate and his son, Fahad, were looking for a project and couldn't turn down a 10-acre site with a view of the Disney World fireworks.
Jumani Hospitality divided the property into three parcels and focused its immediate attention on the two buildings at the rear that were still mostly intact.
Now, after an $8 million renovation, the 99-key Hawthorn Suites is a three-star, limited service hotel charging an average daily room rate of $129 to $149. And Wyndham Worldwide has green-lit use of its Wyndham Garden flag for a 180-key, full-service hotel on site.
"The Jumani family has not hesitated in anyway," project manager Hatim Hashwani said. "They're not the type of people to build something and then flip it. They're long-term players, and they take pride in ownership."
There wasn't a surface that went untouched. The full-gut renovation included new flooring, windows, doors, HVAC, tile and fixtures, kitchen cabinets with quartz counters and stainless steel appliances, Wyndham bedding ensembles and linens.
"I have been inside the rooms and they are absolutely beautiful," W192 Development Authority Executive Director David Buchheit said. "This type of renovation is what the development authority is looking for on older properties."
The pool was completely refurbished with an expanded deck, cabanas and tiki bar. A decorative fountain was added to the interior courtyard. The family spent $40,000 on smart energy management systems for each room and more than $60,000 on top-of-the-line laundry equipment.
They demolished a bridge that linked two buildings and added the new 4,200-square-foot lobby. The self-serve breakfast area on the second floor will open next week.
For now, Pereri is delivering freshly prepared breakfast sandwiches to guests at their rooms.
A hotel veteran with 25 years of management experience, Pereri oversees the staff of 30 employees. "I've opened three new hotels before," he said. "This one is excellent. I come from Hilton, so my standards are very high."
Hashwani said the level of quality at the Hawthorn is what helped close the deal with Wyndham for the second hotel.
Fahad Jumani previously told GrowthSpotter he always envisioned the front property as a four-star hotel. It has large meeting rooms, banquet space and a restaurant, and it could be converted to an interior corridor hotel. But getting a national hotel company to see the vision was a challenge, especially for a two-story property in that condition.
Hashwani said Wyndham waived its height requirement to partner with the Jumanis on the second property. The Jumanis hired Architectural Design + Associates, the same firm that successfully completed a similar hotel conversion.
The Jumanis' plan was to get the first hotel up and running before moving on to the second phase. It will operate under a separate company, Jumani Hotels and Resorts Inc.
"That's a monster, and to do it right is going to take time," Hashwani said. "It's going to be a $16-$17 million project, and we're going to do it all in one phase."
The architects are now reviewing elevations with Wyndham to make sure everything conforms to their brand standard. They're sending pro forma packages to lenders, and already are reviewing construction bids.
"We expect to close on the financing within 60 days and hopefully break ground by the end of June," Hashwani said. "We anticipate a 15-month construction period."
The family has also branched into high-end residential development with its first subdivision, Arisha Enclave, just south of W192 in Kissimmee.
Mohammed Jumani bought the land over a decade ago and sat on it during the recession before breaking ground on the 49-lot subdivision. His daughter, Arisha, heads up the family's residential development division.
"We're really offering something that isn't available now in the immediate area," Arisha Jumani said. "It's a higher price point, but also higher quality finishes. All of our floorplans have 10-foot ceilings and every bedroom has an en suite bathroom. It's really for a professional or move-up buyer."
The Enclave has two finished models and five homes completed or under construction. Mohammed Jumani said they plan to grow the homebuilding division.
"I'm also looking for any housing projects as well, because as soon as Arisha Enclave is completed, we are looking for an even bigger project," he said.
The family's long-term plan also calls for a third hotel, possibly 120 rooms with structured parking, on the Reedy Creek property between the Hawthorn Suites and the Magic Village 2 Resort behind it.
"That's still very preliminary," Hashwani said. "But we do have a lot of hotels who are interested in that site."