A Sarasota company that specializes in converting distressed motels into workforce housing has a purchase contract for the Ambassador Hotel just west of downtown Orlando.
One Stop Housing’s Mark Vengroff told GrowthSpotter he plans to invest up to $7 million on renovations to convert the motel’s 154 rooms into affordable multifamily housing. He applied for rezoning and filed a Master Plan with the city outlining the scope of work, which includes repairing the roof and sprinkler system, upgrading the electrical and plumbing, and renovating the two-story motel into a community consisting largely of studio apartments.
Built in 1956, the Ambassador sits at the intersection of Colonial and Westmoreland Drive and backs up to homes in College Park’s upscale Lake Adair neighborhood.
“The property itself is in really bad shape,” Vengroff said. “There’s a lot of crime, prostitution, drugs that are running through that property today. No secret there. If you look at police reports, you’ll see it’s off the charts. And oddly enough, which is very unique in this type of circumstance, is the neighborhood immediately next to this property is beautiful. I mean, the people take a lot of pride in their homes. It’s a really nice area. It’s beautiful. And it’s unfortunate that this property is really creating some challenges for sure for those folks, too.”
The development plan calls for 124 studios, 19 ADA-equipped studio units, six one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom apartment. Vengraff said the existing structure lends itself to mixed-use development, so he intends to lease a portion of the front building for commercial use.
This would be One Stop’s ninth motel conversion in Florida. The company entered the Central Florida market with its Backlot Apartments on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee, followed by Colonial Gardens near the Orlando Fairgrounds property in Pine Hill. That property is still technically operating as a hotel, but Vengraff is seeking annexation into the City of Orlando with rezoning from commercial to residential to allow for long-term rentals.
He had hoped to convert Kissimmee’s Magic Castle hotel, setting for the movie The Florida Project, to residential apartments but backed out of the deal. Osceola County enacted an ordinance in 2021 setting strict guidelines for the adaptive reuse of commercial buildings for residential use. Those building requirements combined with the county’s sky-high school impact fees make it difficult to convert properties in Osceola and still keep the rents affordable. Vengraff said the City of Orlando has been more receptive to the model.
“In Osceola, they want everyone to do workforce housing all in a certain section of town. They want to kind of keep (W192) more of a commercial corridor,” Vengroff said. “So where we specialize in taking distressed assets and then renovating them into multifamily apartments, so you need an existing asset for the most part. The city of Orlando, Buddy Dyer’s office, and the affordable housing staff, Lisa Portelli, have been phenomenal to work with.”
Vengroff said he and his staff strictly vet all residents, and the properties have zero tolerance for criminal activity. Studio apartments typically rent for about $750 to $775 per month, and all of their communities have waiting lists.