UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 9, 2016 6:18 PM — Randall F. Greene and DCS Real Estate Holdings, the South Florida developer behind Bella Collina and other high profile Orlando-area projects, has a 20-acre site under contract south of the Orange County Convention Center's West Concourse, with plans to build a convention-level hotel tower with 1,000 to 1,200 keys, possibly branded with two upscale flags, sources with direct knowledge of the deal told GrowthSpotter.
Located on the northwest corner of Westwood Boulevard, the property lies southeast of the Interstate 4-Beachline Expressway intersection, with quick access to OCCC via a flyover bridge that leads right to the West Concourse.
Sources privy to the developer's plan said Friday three major hotel companies have offered commitments for upscale flags that would be unique to the tourism corridor. The tower would stand 40 to 50 stories in height, with the potential for a second smaller tower carrying a third flag.
Planned Development zoning on the property already offers entitlements for 60 hotel units per acre, or 1,200 keys overall.
In comparison, the Hyatt Regency Hotel east of OCCC's West Concourse has two towers of 29 and 34 stories (1,641 rooms), the Rosen Plaza to its north has 14 stories (800 rooms), and the Hilton Orlando stands 18 stories (1,418 rooms) near the South Concourse, according to county records.
Greene confirmed on Friday his company brought the property under contract on Sept. 1, and should close by mid-November or sooner.
He declined to confirm a prospective purchase price. Titlework is done on the property, and a soil study that begins Monday is expected to come back clean, per sources with knowledge of the land's environmental history.
The property was the original site for the 400-foot Great Orlando Wheel project, proposed by Winter Park-based Starneth, an engineering company specialized in design and construction of giant observation wheels.
A Development Plan for the wheel was approved by Orange County in July 2007, but the project went cold during the recession and was suspended in 2009. In 2013, development affiliate Great Orlando Wheel Corp. was placed under the control of a receiver to liquidate its assets, primarily the 20-acre site.
Greene's RG Developments & Investments is known as a developer that can pay cash for properties and close quickly. It's the co-owner on multiple Florida real estate projects with DCS Real Estate Holdings, which is controlled by Dwight C. Schar, a minority-stake owner of the Washington Redskins and founder of NVR Inc., a large national home builder that builds under the Ryan Homes brand.
Greene has spent the past year amending the future land use of a 65-acre lakefront parcel on Turkey Lake Road west of OCCC, which it's now subdividing for retail, hotel and multifamily buyers.
Hooman Hamzehloui, founder of Masters Realty and buyer's agent for DCS, declined to comment Friday on the pending land acquisition, but said the property is "the best hotel site remaining in Central Florida."
"More than 185,000 cars pass it every day, with amazing views from every angle," he said. "It's a half mile to SeaWorld, and the Convention Center has that bridge over the 528 that's walkable or drivable, directly to this property."
East of the property is another 16 undeveloped acres across four parcels, also with entitlements allowing high-rise hotels. Five of those acres are owned by Avanti Properties Group of Winter Park, the rest controlled by various receivers.
Within the past few weeks, Greene and associates met with lead executives of the OCCC to share their hotel plan, and ask if the location on Westwood Boulevard could be a future stop for the campus circulator bus.
A pilot route for that circulator bus has been active since March, with stops at the Hyatt Regency, Hilton, Rosen Centre and Rosen Plaza hotels north of the Beachline Expressway, along with Pointe Orlando and the OCCC parking lots.
Kathie Canning, executive director of the OCCC, told GrowthSpotter on Friday that the 20 acres Greene is targeting for development have always been considered ideal for a convention-level hotel, a key reason OCCC built the Westwood flyover bridge there years ago.
"We'd certainly suggest that site as a stop in the future for any permanent circulator bus system we put in place," she said.
OCCC is the nation's second largest convention center. The Convention Center Plaza submarket has up to 23,000 rooms available, and produces the strongest occupancy and average daily rates among any submarket in Greater Orlando.
Even with all those rooms, there's growing demand for new convention-level hotels near OCCC that can score "walkability" points with attendees, said Paul Sexton, vice president of HREC Investment Advisors, a national brokerage offering consulting, development and asset management services to the hotel industry.
"Because the county is encouraging density and height on International Drive, we're starting to see a skyline emerge there," he said. "You may have this hotel building, the (Skyplex) polercoaster, and this would help contribute to that I-Drive brand."