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Skorman Construction preps land near SeaWorld for dense hotel and retail development

The proposed hotel development is being planned on a 6.5-acre site along Westwood Boulevard, next to a recently completed Tru by Hilton hotel.
The proposed hotel development is being planned on a 6.5-acre site along Westwood Boulevard, next to a recently completed Tru by Hilton hotel. (Orange County)

Developer and contractor Mark Skorman wants to embellish some properties he owns in Orlando’s tourism corridor with a heap of entitlements befitting for a large mixed-use hotel project.

With the help of consultant Jim Hall of Hall Development Services, Skorman and his company Westwood Land Corporation submitted a conceptual Development Plan in Orange County that envisions transforming a vacant 6.5-acre site along Westwood Boulevard into an upscale hotel with a five-story parking garage and complementary retail buildings and restaurants.

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Skorman bought the property in 2017 as part of a larger 11-acre assemblage that included an adjacent 4.5-acre site — now a 259-room Tru by Hilton hotel developed by Miami-based Epelboim Development Group and completed in September.

Noel Epelboim, president and CEO of Epelboim Development Group, told GrowthSpotter he had been working closely with the development team to clear an access easement through the middle of the parcels and add some cross access easement between the three lots.

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“I believe they filed plans to have something going forward in the county, but they’re not hotel developers,” he said. “Looks like what they’re doing is basically getting entitlements so they can sell the property like they did with us, but I don’t think [a developer] would actually put a thousand-room hotel there.”

That being said, Epelboim admitted he would like to see an upscale hotel be built next door.

“It would be a good location for a high-end hotel with some mix of retail or even high-end multifamily,” he said.

His company, Epelboim Development Group, secured nearly $40 million (including about $7 million from private equity, $11 million from EB-5 capital and a $21.5 million construction loan from BridgeInvest) to complete the eight-story Hilton-branded hotel last year.

The proposed DP for the project next door shows a hotel, up to 35 stories tall, with 1,000 hotel rooms and a multilevel parking garage along I-4. Additionally, plans include up to 4,900 square feet of retail space across two separate pads and two restaurant locations: one large with the capacity for 420 seats and a smaller restaurant with 180 seats.

Conceptual plans show the proposed hotel could feature up to 35 floors, though the Development Plan only features 28.
Conceptual plans show the proposed hotel could feature up to 35 floors, though the Development Plan only features 28. (Orange County)

Kimley-Horn & Associates is the civil engineer and Atlanta-based Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates, Inc. is the architect.

The property falls within the I-Drive District overlay area, meaning the developer must adhere to specific standards that were adopted in 2017 as a means to spur more urbanized and pedestrian-friendly developments.

Paul Sexton, vice president of HREC Investment Advisors, said he’s seeing a transition of new hotel development moving to areas where Skorman’s properties are located — just outside of the core center of Orlando’s tourism corridor, but close enough to its giant theme parks and the Orange County Convention Center.

“[The core center] is effectively built out,” he said. “Not a lot of land is available for new development and as a result a lot of the hotels you see in the core have older designs, sit on smaller sites, or have a motel-style that reflects more of the early days of the submarket.”

He adds hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton are seldom built in the core because of a lack of land. Hotel brands are looking for space to build, and proximity to other hotel brands because that’s what guests like to see, he said.

Nearby, Darren Pellegrin, a former Tavistock Development Company manager who now runs his own real estate company, is behind a proposed $80 million hotel project with 378 rooms and a 6,000-square-foot restaurant pad on about 7.4 acres across the Dolphin’s Plaza shopping center along International Drive.

In addition, Park Square Homes is planning a large short-term rental community on the former Marriott Grande Pines golf course, just south of SeaWorld. Plans call for 178 townhomes and 245 detached vacation homes. The project will consists of different sized resort homes that range from a three-bedroom townhouse to a 12-bedroom vacation home.

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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