A Miami-area company is targeting a 1970s-era motel next to Universal’s Endless Summer Resort for a massive infill redevelopment project that could bring nearly 2,000 hotel rooms and a new apartment complex to the International Drive corridor.
Juan Francisco Nagaro, owner of Blue Projects USA, told GrowthSpotter he has a purchase contract for the property at 7050 S Kirkman Rd. with a closing date in late April. Nagaro met with Orlando city staff in February to discuss the conceptual plan for redeveloping the 8.9-acre site. The property is home to the 354-room motel complex known as the I Drive Resort and Suites.
Nagaro envisions a trio of 20-story hotel towers that meet in the center lobby. The hotel would have a convention center, structured parking and would add 1,954 keys to the growing inventory of the North I Drive submarket.
“It’s going to be really modern” Nagaro said. “We feel like Orlando is going to be the most modern city in Florida in a few years.”
Nagaro said he has previously developed hotels in Miami Beach. This will be his first project in Orlando.
The development team is currently exploring whether they can build the pool and other outdoor amenities, including an electric go-kart track, on the top level of the parking garage.
At the southern portion of the property, there would be a separate residential tower with 354 apartments. Nagaro said the plan is to do all efficiencies and one-bedroom units ranging from 400-600 square feet to keep them affordable for people who work in the tourism industry.
The total project size, based on the concept plan, would be 1.13 million square feet.
Nagaro said initially the firm would pour $8 million into renovations of the existing property with the intention of landing a national flag. The company would operate the renovated hotel for about four years to generate income while it proceeds with the design, permitting and financing of the larger project.
“It will take time to pull together the financing for such a larger project,” he said.
At 20-stories, the building would tower over the neighboring Dockside Inn and Suites, which has 2,000 rooms but is only 9-stories tall.
HREC Vice President Paul Sexton said the former Gateway Inn motel, owned by Allamanda Investments LLC, has been primed for redevelopment for years. His firm previously had the listing on the property but is not involved in the current deal.
“Now you’ve got the two new properties from Universal, so there’s a concentration of new hotel rooms in the area,” Sexton said. “That’s what the North I-Drive market needs now, substantial redevelopment. I would welcome that project to the neighborhood.”
The project would benefit from the recently completed Kirkman interchange at I-4 and the extension, which will serve the new Epic Universe theme park. The height would be comparable to the Four Points Sheraton Orlando, which is just to the north across I-Drive.
The Universal expansion has driven even more investment in the immediate area. Last week, Intram Investments purchased the 18-acre retail site at the northeast corner of Kirkman and I-Drive for $22.75 million and will likely redevelop the site. A half mile away, Lennar Homes will bring its popular vacation home product to I Drive. The homebuilder bought the 70-acre site just south of the former Artegon Marketplace (now Dezerland) in December for $26.25 million.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Mr. Nagaro is the sole owner of Blue Projects USA. An earlier version of the article named a previous business partner who is no longer involved in the deal.