National hotel developer Buccini/Pollin Group will bring the luxury lifestyle W Hotel brand to Orlando with plans for a 22-story hotel tower next door to Epic Universe.
BPG owns and operates about 80 hotels in 20 states and has separate divisions operating in office, sports, retail and multifamily sectors. Co-President Dave Pollin told GrowthSpotter this will be the company’s first project in Orlando, and they couldn’t be more excited to bring the boutique Marriott brand to this market as well as a separate facility that will offer concerts and entertainment up to 200 days per year.
“The project includes a 400-room W Hotel, a 2,000-seat live music venue and (6)-story, parking garage,” Pollin said. “And I know you know the location, but we’re really excited about where it is because of what’s happening next door — about the growth of the area.”
BPG, which is based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, entered into a 99-year ground lease with the owner of the vacant 10-acre site known as Lot 5 on the South Universal campus plat. It’s at the northwest corner of Universal Boulevard and Destination Parkway.
Pollin said the hotel will be designed to attract tourists and business travelers — it’s less than a mile from the Orange County Convention Center — as well as draw locals to the property with a unique set of entertainment and dining offerings.
“So the hotel will only be a success if people who live in the community want to come and spend time there,” he said. “And we accomplish that three different ways. One is we’re going to have a really terrific and somewhat unique offering. It’s going to be an adult pool. And when I say that, you know that it’s just going to be set up like a day club/nightclub. So we’ll have great entertainment DJs, etc. We want people who live in Orlando who are looking for a really fun, active environment to come and spend time with us.”
He said the pool club will offer cabana rentals and be set off from the hotel so visitors don’t have to walk through the lobby to access it, and the music won’t disturb hotel guests. The hotel also will have a separate, rooftop pool for guests of all ages.
“So it’s a big expansive space, and we’re working with an aquatic design firm now to add Lazy River and other waterpark-type features, because we really want people to feel like they can spend the day with us and have great entertainment options for themselves and for their families,” Pollin said.
Marriott operates 67 W Hotels worldwide and 24 in the U.S., including three in South Florida. The company opened four W Hotels in 2022 and anticipates debuting in Prague, Budapest, Edinburgh, Sydney, Macau, and Milan this year. It’s one of the hotelier’s luxury brands on par with The Ritz Carlton, St. Regis and J.W. Marriott but is known for “pushing the boundaries of elevated design” and focusing on regionally inspired programming that fuels the guests’ lust for life.
The W Hotel Orlando will also feature five bars and restaurants, including a world-famous destination restaurant with 400 seats that will be opening its first location in the Orlando market. Pollin said the area around the convention center is considered one of the most lucrative restaurant submarkets in the nation. “So we really want this restaurant to be a place that convention groups would want to rent out the whole thing. So we’re going to have to be really special and be a destination on itself,” he said.
The 30,000-square-foot music venue will be managed by a third-party operator. “And that will bring in regional and national shows to the area,” Pollin said. “So we look forward to having the community join us for those events and hopefully staying after for a drink or coming before for dinner.”
The music venue should be booked anywhere from 150-200 days per year. On the off days, the hotel could use it for private or corporate events. “So if you imagine people would want to have their wedding or social event or corporate event in a really cool funky space with great acoustics, there could be a lot of different uses for that space,” Pollin said.
Global architecture firm Cooper Carry is leading the design work for the entire project, alongside civil engineer Kimley Horn. LandDesign is the landscape architect who created the expansive outdoor plazas and greenways on the site.
Pollin said the company aims to break ground before the end of 2023. The team is still refining its design, so they haven’t finalized the budget or closed financing yet. The annual rent for the ground lease starts at $1.55 million per year for the first 10 years, escalating by 10% every 10 years for the duration of the lease. A percentage of the rent in years 1 and 2 is deferred but is due in year 3. The landlord is Universal Retail C LLC, an affiliate of Comterra Group and SRE Holdings.
Epic Universe is on track to open in the summer of 2025 and will have its own hotels onsite and adjacent to the park. Those include the 500-room Grand Helios hotel at the back of the park and a pair of sister resort hotels, the Stella Nova and Terra Luna, each with 750 rooms.
Pollin said the W Hotel isn’t technically on the Universal site. “We’re close enough to where we aspire to have an arrangement with Universal where our guests could enjoy the park,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what form that will take yet, but we would certainly love to be thought of as an on-campus hotel.”
Pollin also sees the location, across from the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management, as a huge advantage, and he’s already reached out to the college to discuss potential synergies with the hotel.
“We feel like we can include them as part of the development process,” he said. “We look forward to doing case studies with the students and lecturing them, so that’s, that’s kind of cool. We like to be involved with the next generation.”
BPG and its subsidiary, PM Hotel Group, currently operate one hotel in Melbourne but have been eyeing the Orlando market for years. Once the company enters a new market, it engages with the community and with philanthropic organizations.
“When we’re looking around the country for projects that get us excited and markets that we want to be in Orlando has been on our list for a long time — for a lot of obvious reasons,” Pollin said. “And we just want to the extent people care, we want people to know we’re so intrigued by Central Florida because it’s so multi-dimensional.”