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Plans resurface for shelved UNIQ Hotel on I-Drive

Plans resurface for shelved UNIQ Hotel on I-Drive
A rendering for the previously proposed 21-story UNIQ Hotel on I-Drive. (Baker Barrios)

The development group behind the tabled UNIQ Hotel project on I-Drive, which received much fanfare back in 2015, is once again seeking approvals to see those plans through.

According to a recently submitted Preliminary Review Item in Orange County, property management firm Paramount Hospitality Management is requesting a pre-application meeting to expand the Avanti Resort at 8738 International Dr. with the addition of a new 21-story boutique hotel and parking garage.

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The firm is representing the resort’s owner, Brazilian business group Brasif, on the project. Paramount Hospitality Management oversees and manages the Avanti property, which already has 652 rooms.

Formerly a foreclosed on Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, the 10-acre property was given a second chance of life when Brasif acquired the resort in 2012 for $11.7 million.

Photo of the renovated 652-unit Avanti International Resort at 8738 International Dr.
Photo of the renovated 652-unit Avanti International Resort at 8738 International Dr. (Avanti Resort)

HREC Vice President Paul Sexton, who brokered the deal, told the GrowthSpotter the firm had bought the property with expansion privileges in mind, but before those plans could be put in motion, the development team embarked on an intensive renovation project to revitalize property.

“They got in on the bottom of the market and did exactly the right thing — they put in the right amount of money toward renovating the property,” Sexton said. “They bought it for nothing and must have put in about $22,000 a key.”

Today, it’s a rare occurrence to find a lender controlled property along I-Drive, he said. The area is thriving off high-volumes of traffic and visitors stopping at attractions like Unicorp’s glowing 400-foot Ferris wheel, Icon Orlando 360, and the Orange County Convention Center, which hosts an array of trade shows and expos like the recent MegaCon Orlando convention.

If approved, the proposed UNIQ Hotel would add 352 rooms to the resort. The plans are in line with previous efforts that were first announced by Paramount Hospitality Management executives back in 2015 at an Orange County I-Drive steering committee meeting.

To get the project off the ground, the partners had to meet an aggressive pre-construction timeline. Between 2016 and 2017, the developer came very close to the finishing line too, scoring a trove of necessary approvals — including one from the Federal Aviation Administration that gave the developer a 250-foot height clearance — but word of the project’s construction never manifested.

Executives at Paramount Hospitality Management were not immediately available to comment. Lochrane Engineering is civil engineer.

The most recently submitted conceptual plan shows the hotel will consist of 2,967 square feet of restaurant space and 11,800 square feet of ancillary meeting space. The proposed parking garage would accommodate 512 spaces. Some small-scale demolition is also planned.

In a previous interview with GrowthSpotter, Marco A. Manzie, founder of Paramount Hospitality, said the development group wanted to create a unique hotel with a first-floor restaurant and rooftop bar and pool. Manzie said he was open to partnering with different brands and celebrity chefs for the two spaces.

Sexton said he hopes plans pan out. He adds that the area generally lacks upper scale boutique hotel product, especially the kind that doesn’t necessarily cater to families.

“There a ton of other demographics segments in Orlando,” Sexton said, adding the hotel could cater to a convention center traveler or childless straight and gay couples that want a more adult-oriented experience.

“The corridor could really use it.”

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-5427, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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