Leading hotel experts are split over whether Osceola County should redo the solicitation for hotel development on three county-owned sites at Osceola Heritage Park and Judge Farms.
But they all agree on one thing: even with the opening of a high-tech sensor center in 2017, that location on East U.S. 192 is not suited for a full service hotel.
The RFLOI sought partners to build two full-service branded hotels (with meeting space, restaurants, bars and spa services) and one upper-midscale hotel (150 rooms). The county received one proposal from Manatee Lost Lagoon Development, an affiliate of Orlando-based Mims Construction in partnership with UrbanAmerica, that included all three sites.
But County Manager Don Fisher told GrowthSpotter on March 30 he's seriously considering rewriting the solicitation and putting it back on the street to garner more competition. He plans to make a recommendation to county commissioners next week.
Robin Webb, managing director for NAI Realvest and president-elect of CCIM, said the county would be more successful pursing limited service hotels.
"I think that's the most likely product at that location for the time being," Webb said. "I don't believe you can attract full service this early in the development of that park."
Susan Morris, senior vice president of investment for Colliers International Central Florida, agreed. She said even if the county offered the land for free it would have difficulty attracting a branded, full-service hotel.
"Full service hotels are hard to make work," she said. "You have to have multiple plant generators. If you go with smaller, limited service hotels, they can serve business travelers and they can do weekends. You're not going to get full service at a sports facility."
Morris said the county should give close consideration to the Lost Lagoon proposal, especially if the team has relevant experience. She also recommended meeting with local hoteliers before making a decision.
"You need to go to the industry – ideally five hoteliers who own hotels in the area," she said. "Don't go to a consultant."
HFF Orlando Director Michael Weinberg said Monday the county absolutely should rewrite the solicitation before reposting it.
"I'm of the opinion that competition trumps negotiation," he said. "I'd rather put it out and try to get more competition than to negotiate with a single bidder. But you'd have to make pretty significant changes to the RFP or solicitation. If you go out with the same one, you'll get essentially the same result."
He said the county's new contract with Diamond 9 Events at OHP makes the site ideal for limited service, select service and extended stay hotels.
"Teams that are coming down for a tournament for a week, they like to have a little bit larger refrigerator and a kitchenette. They can fit more people to a room."
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