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Hotels & Hospitality Development News in Central Florida

Newly sold hotel on I-Drive to be expanded, rebranded into Orlando’s 1st Aiden by Best Western

Eight other hotels occupy American Way, surrounding the SureStay Plus site along I-Drive. Many of them are much newer.

Anticipating the arrival of Universal’s newest theme park, Orlando-based investment and asset management company Radix Hawk Group has purchased the 40-year-old, 192-room SureStay Plus by Best Western on International Drive for $19.7 million.

Pedro Marrero, founder and CEO of Radix Hawk, told GrowthSpotter the company plans to renovate the 192-room hotel in order to rebrand it into the Orlando market’s first Aiden by Best Western.

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“It’s a modern, hip, boutique line,” Marrero said of the brand that’s known for bringing new life into old properties. “Best Western is trying to grow that brand.”

Then, once the new flag is in place, Radix Hawk will use an adjacent vacant parcel to build on another wing to the existing hotel, adding 142 suites.

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In total, Marrero expects his company to invest roughly $18.5 million into the revitalization and expansion effort.

After forming a year ago, this is the company’s first closing.

The 33-acre property sits at 5859 American Way in Orlando’s tourism district, near Universal Resort and the future site of its newest theme park, Epic Universe, currently under construction.

The sale price amounts to $102,604 per room. No hotel with exterior corridors and doors in the Orlando market has ever sold for that much, according to the seller, national real estate brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap.

It’s the fourth hotel sale in the area that Marcus & Millichap has closed on this year, following deals for the Quality Inn at International Drive, the Quality Inn & Suites Turkey Lake and the Quality Inn near Florida mall.

The four sales totaled $56.6 million and resulted in more than 900 rooms changing owners.

But the SureStay transaction “is the largest sale that we’ve done,” said Ahmed Kabani, senior vice president for investments in Marcus & Millichap’s Miami office. “It came out very nice.”

Kabani said the string of hotel sales lately is an indicator that Orlando’s tourism industry is roaring back from the pandemic, which forced many hotels to temporarily close and stalled several hotel construction projects.

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According to data provided by STR, the hotel occupancy rate in the Orlando market was 70.9% over a four-week period ending on May 21. That’s up from the same time period last year when the occupancy rate was 56.3% and close to May 2019 totals when the occupancy rate was 75.6%.

Over a four-week period in May 2020, the occupancy rate in Orlando was 22.2%.

An April report by the National Hotel Association says that hotel revenue from leisure travel in the U.S. is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022 while revenue from business travel, the hotel industry’s largest source of revenue, is not expected to fully recover until 2024.

Marrero, with Radix Hawk, sees potential in the aging SureStay Plus hotel, built in 1983.

A big draw: On 750 acres of land nearby, Universal expects to open its third and largest theme park, Epic Universe, by the summer of 2025.

Construction of Universal’s Epic Universe theme park off Sandlake Road, on Thursday, January 13, 2022. 
Work on Universal's third major Orlando theme park appears to be accelerating after construction resumed last March following a pandemic-related pause.
(Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel)

Along with constructing the new theme park, plans calls for the addition of new hotels, an entertainment complex, shops and restaurants. Universal is partnering with Orange County to extend Kirkman Road through the Epic Universe site.

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Universal’s announcement of the park included concept art featuring several themed lands branching off from a central hub with three lagoons. What appears to be a large hotel stands across from the park’s entrance.

But even before the arrival of Epic Universe, Universal — across its existing portfolio —is fresh off a record-setting fourth quarter in terms of earnings, the CEO Jeff Shell said in January.

The attractions nearby, and the promise of what’s to come, compelled Marrero and his team to acquire the hotel and pursue an extensive renovation, rebranding and expansion project.

This hotel “is in the heart of the tourist area and in a few years that new Universal park will be open,” Marrero told GrowthSpotter. “When we add those other (142) units it will be a more of resort type hotel and you don’t see many on those along I-Drive. This will make it more a boutique resort style.”

There are 22 Aiden hotel properties nationwide, according to the brand’s website. Each of them are the end result of an existing property that was transformed into a new, moden design.

“Aiden transforms your hotel’s experience with modern style and local charm,” the website says. “Each reimagined location is as distinctive as its neighborhood, combining style and wit for an ‘only here’ experience.”

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While there are more than a dozen Best Western-branded hotels in the Orlando market, none currently carry the Aiden name.

Marrero is trying to change that, though doing so will require a huge investment of time and money.

Before the rebranding can occur, Radix Hawk must paint the building’s interior and exterior, replace flooring, furniture, fixtures, and equipment, redesign the lobby, walkways, bathrooms, pool, landscaping and the bar area.

In total, that renovation work is expected to cost $3.5 million, Marrero said.

He’d like to completely redo the building so that he could eliminate the exterior corridors and doorways and add interior hallways. However, he’s unsure if that will be possible.

Eight other hotels occupy American Way, surrounding the SureStay Plus site, and many of them are much newer.

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Radix Hawk will use an adjacant vacant parcel to build on another wing to the existing hotel, adding 141 suites.

On adjacent property to the west, the Hilton Garden Inn Orlando International Drive Northeast opened in 2004. To the east, the Wyndham Gardens Orlando Hotel opened in 2020.

The Wyndam Super 8 Orlando across the street opened in 1984 and it also features the old-fashioned exterior corridor design.

The SureStay Plus by Best Western property includes a vacant parcel on the eastern edge, nearest S.R. 437. Once the rebranding is finalized, Radix Hawk will add on another 142 rooms in a suite format.

Marrero expects that to cost roughly $15.3 million and take a year to complete.

Radix Hawk currently has two other investment projects in the works, including a multi-family development in Kissimmee and a 13-acre semi-truck and RV parking lot near Champion’s Gate.

The seller of the SureStay property, Marcus & Millichap, Inc. is a leading brokerage firm specializing in commercial real estate investment sales, financing, research and advisory services. As of December, the company had 1,994 investment sales and financing professionals in 82 offices across the U.S. and Canada.

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The company closed 13,255 transactions in 2021, with a sales volume of about $84.4 billion, according to a news release.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at (407)-800-1161 or dwyatt@GrowthSpotter.com, or tweet me at @DustinWyattGS. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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