The City of St. Cloud is one of the fastest-growing towns in the nation, but it still lacks some of the basic services typically found a community of its size.
City leaders have tried for years to attract a new Class-A hotel to St. Cloud, to no avail. Now the City Council is commissioning a market feasibility study to lure one to the area that hasn’t had a new hotel built since 1974.
The city has issued a Request for Proposals for a consultant to determine the optimal location and type of hotel for city and its Joint Planning Area, which extends north along Narcoossee Road and west to Lake Tohopekaliga.
Economic Development Director Antranette Forbes said the city is looking to appeal to a different tourist than the Kissimmee market. It sees itself as destination for eco-tourism, people who are visiting local residents and attending events at Osceola Heritage Park.
“So we’re looking for folks, potentially, visitors who are looking for a boutique-style hotel with 150 to 200 spaces” within 10 miles of downtown St. Cloud, she said. “I can tell you since I’ve been here, and I started Sept. 30 of last year, we’ve had a couple of conversations with hoteliers, and the first question they ask for is a feasibility study.”
The most recent study was completed in 2016. Since that time, a new buyer has purchased and renovated the historic Hunter Arms Hotel and is currently renovating the 38-room St. Cloud Hotel, across from City Hall. But no new inventory has been added.
According to the scope of RFP: There are several potential sites within the city that may provide an opportunity for hospitality development, of which the City can assist in identifying. The goal is to determine what type of hospitality project is economically feasible by the private sector and what amenities could be supported.
The project consists of six deliverables, beginning with a market demand analysis and project feasibility study, including whether public incentives should be available. The consultant also will be expected to recommend a facility type, including a breakdown of the number and configuration of guest rooms, potential food and beverage concepts, meeting space requirements and brand affiliation. Finally, the consultant will be asked to provide potential hotel sites and outline prospective users. The final report would be presented to the City Council and the Economic Development Advisory Council.
Forbes said the RFP was drafted in such a way to be specific and ambiguous, so the consultant will look at all possibilities.
“We are thinking, in our mind, that we have the eco-tourism factor, but the data may show that we should capitalize on our Medical Arts Campus,” she said.
Orlando Health’s July 1 acquisition of St. Cloud Regional Medical Center, along with rebranding the 84-bed hospital, could spark interest for a hotel site close by. Hospitals have been major drivers for new hotel development, particularly extended-stay concepts. Forbes said the city is working on a zoning overlay for the medical arts campus that surrounds the hospital.
“And so if we could tie something into that development, that would be like the perfect elixir to our economic development needs,” she said.
The previous market study evaluated a site on U.S. 192 directly north of the hospital and found that it could support a nationally branded, mid-scale hotel, but that site has since been developed as medical offices.
The RFP can be found on the city’s VendorLink page. Responses are due Aug. 6., and the city’s procurement department expects to make a final recommendation to City Council within 90 days of the bid opening.