UPDATED: JANUARY 26, 2016 3:30 PM — Wisconsin-based Great Wolf Resorts paid $23 million on Friday to buy nearly 50 acres along Interstate 4, the last huge tract of undeveloped land directly east of Disney Springs, after confirming in mid-November it was planning its first Orlando property.
Owner-operator of 14 resorts with indoor water parks across the country, Great Wolf is now planning 600 rooms or more for the hotel, Robert H. McEwan, first vice president of CBRE's Land Services Group that marketed the property, told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday.
Great Wolf was carrying out due diligence in recent months on the 49.7 acres with a contract to buy. As GrowthSpotter reported on Nov. 18, senior vice president of development Alex Lombardo went before Orange County's Development Review Committee to try and confirm the property's zoning would allow for their intended use.
Lombardo told the county in November that Great Wolf was planning an 800-key hotel with an embedded 100,000-square-foot water park on the property, along with accessory uses like restaurants, arcade, a spa, fitness center and more.
The owner-operator of 14 resorts with indoor water parks has a contract to buy the land and is in due diligence reviewing zoning allowances, but it's unclear if a previously projected price of up to $44 million will be met.
The $23 million sale price estimate is based on deed doc taxes paid on a deed recorded with Orange County on Tuesday. No record of a mortgage for the property was filed.
No formal development plans have been submitted for a hotel project on the property, Orange County planning staff said Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Great Wolf did not respond to immediate requests for comment on Tuesday.
"Orlando has been a market of interest of ours for a long time, with its family travel demographic fitting very well with our business model," said Lombardo on Nov. 18. "We've had interest in this parcel for some time as well, with its size and proximity (to Walt Disney World)."
Accessible by Meadow Creek Drive, the property has frontage to the north on I-4, to the west on the World Marriott Resort's golf course and to the east by Starwood's Vistana Resort. It offers a direct view across the interstate to the $200 million Disney Springs development.
The 49.7 acres are part of the Lake Vista Village PD, which had a substantial change approved in August by the Board of County Commissioners to reduce the maximum yield of hotel/timeshare units from 1,488 to 1,438.
McEwan of CBRE previously projected that a site with capacity for a single, full-service hotel with 1,400-plus keys should demand $30,000 or more per key, a projected value of $43.8 million for these 49.7 acres. The final sale price ended up lower than that due to negotiations between buyer and seller, he said.
Great Wolf Resorts was fully acquired in May 2015 by private investment firm Centerbridge Partners, L.P., from funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management. Centerbridge's investment track record and access to capital was said at the time to be key in driving expansion plans for Great Wolf. The companies never disclosed that sale price, but Reuters reported it was $1.35 billion.