Brazilian hotel owner-operators Grupo Atlantico have moved fast in the past two months to finish design of their first North American hotel in Orlando's tourism corridor, adding rooms and select-service amenities for a new Master Plan submitted to the city.
Located at 5871 Carrier Dr., southeast of the former Wet 'n Wild property, the 2.35-acre site was bought by a Grupo Atlantico affiliate on Aug. 15 for $2.4 million. The deal included preliminary engineered plans for a six-story, 157-key hotel proposed in 2015 with the Element by Westin flag.
Damaris Hollingsworth, architect with Minneapolis-based THOR Design Plus, won a private design bid process following the August land purchase, in large part because of her native Brazilian background and ability to teach Grupo Atlantico executives how the U.S. permitting process differs from Brazil.
THOR helped Grupo Atlantico add a seventh floor and 30 rooms to the conceptual master plan it acquired, without the need for a height variance.
"Major massing of the hotel's design remained the same, and we added a seventh story for market reasons," Hollingsworth told GrowthSpotter. "They understand they'll invest more now but get more in return."
A thorough redesign of the hotel's unit layout was needed. The former Element by Westin design was for extended stay with kitchenettes. Atlantico's management wanted to scrap the kitchen, revise the entryway and open up the rooms, Hollingsworth said.
"We also went back and forth a few times on the bathrooms, and how that affected the entire room layout," she continued. "They wanted the bathrooms to have an exterior window, which is the norm in Brazilian homes and (hotels). This created a huge inefficiency in room layout. Because of the cost increases, and some explanation of why the U.S. design norm is different, they agreed to bring the bathroom back to the interior."
Amenities should include a full-service restaurant, fitness center, meeting rooms (square footage undetermined), and ground-floor swimming pool with bar.
This is THOR Design Plus' first architecture work in the Orlando market, but THOR Construction had a satellite office here up until last year, and has served as general contractor on multiple Disney properties, Hollingsworth said.
"The hope now is that we can create momentum with this job, earn more work in the market and reopen that Orlando office," she added.
Based in Santos, a coastal city in Sao Paulo state, Grupo Atlantico owns and operates four hotels under its own family of brands that run the gamut from hostel to full service.
Director Fabio Rodriguez told GrowthSpotter the company plans to create a new flag for Orlando under the Atlantico umbrella, and is confident its independent brand can compete in the tourism corridor by working closely with Brazilian travel agencies, international reservation websites and intermediary firms that reserve hotel meeting space for companies.
Total project investment is estimated near $17.5 million including land acquisition, with Grupo Atlantico to fund that entirely with its own equity, Rodriguez said.
The hotel's MP should go before Orlando's Planning and Zoning Board on Dec. 19, and then before City Council in January.
March 2018 is targeted for a construction start. Dan Daniels of Merritt Island-based Grand Ave SKJ Management, LLC will serve as the construction manager.