Westwood Boulevard ― a road that runs parallel to State Road 528 near the Orange County Convention Center and SeaWorld ― is poised for new hotel development, with one grandiose high-rise concept recently granted approval and another, smaller-scale proposal in the early planning stage.
A 36-story, 1,000-room hotel and convention center under development by Orlando-based Skorman Construction and its affiliate Westwood Land Corporation received final approval on April 8.
To the east, just two parcels down, New York-based developer GFI Hospitality, LLC has sights set on a 274-unit Hyatt House concept.
With nearly 100 hotels around the world, Hyatt House hotels offer residential-style settings for extended stays, plus everyday comforts and 24-hour convenience, according to its website.
This is a departure from the developer’s original proposal for the 5-acre parcel.
In 2018, the developer announced its intentions to bring Orlando its first Le Meridian hotel.
The developer has since scrapped the 300-room Le Meridian plan, replacing it with the Hyatt concept. The application requesting the plan change was submitted to Orange County on April 15.
“We felt that a Hyatt House would be more appropriate for the market,” Joel Rosen, president of GFI Hospitality, told GrowthSpotter. He noted that the Hyatt name already appears on a large hotel next to the convention center.
Both of these hotel projects slated for Westwood Boulevard would flank the Tru by Hilton on opposite sides. Opened in September of 2020, Tru by Hilton has 259 rooms and about 2,000 square feet of conference space.
The not-yet-named Skorman-led hotel project would cover 995,000 square feet and rise 36 stories tall.
It would feature three restaurants, with one on the roof offering views of four theme different parks.
“You can be on the roof and see all of the fireworks” from theme parks, said Kevin Skorman, Vice President of Skorman Construction. “This is single-handedly the best piece of property in Orlando right now.”
Skorman couldn’t provide an estimate as to when the project will be complete.
As for the proposed Hyatt House, it would the first hotel GFI has developed in the Orlando area, Rosen said, adding that it’s early in the planning stage and that an architectural rendering has yet to be produced.
There are nearly 100 Hyatt House locations around world, with one under construction just north of Orlando International Airport. Hyatt House is a select-service, extended-stay brand that also features meeting and event space and a full bar in the lobby. Rooms are designed with full, apartment-style kitchens.
The proposed site of the Westwood Boulevard Hyatt House is owned by Empire Equities, a company affiliated with GFI. The parcel was purchased in 2017 for $6.4 million, according to property records.
GFI Hospitality is a hotel investment, development and asset management firm that targets above market, risk-adjusted investment returns through executing carefully crafted financial and operating strategies, according to the company’s website.
“GFI Hospitality, LLC and its affiliates have developed some of the world’s most iconic lifestyle hotels, including the Ace Hotel, Nomad Hotel and Beekman hotel in New York and the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs, California,” the company’s website says.
When the Crown Hotel in Miami, Beach rebranded to the Thompson Miami Beach, GFI was retained to manage the transition, according to the company’s website.
The company is also in the midst of completing a Ritz-Carlton Residences in Miami, as well as a multi-family complex in Naples, Rosen said.
GFI Hospitality’s executive team has completed over $4 billion worth of hotel transactions and has over 150 years of principle and executive-level investment, development, asset management. property management and advisory level experience, the website says.
Rosen said the property in Orlando “spoke” to the development team as a site for a future hotel.
“There are so many positives with Orlando,” Rosen said. “It has a robust economic engine, and it’s not just tourism. It’s a highly diversified market.”
He added, “The proximity to the convention center and access to (International Drive) was very important. We like Westwood because of the aesthetic of that property and the proximity to Sea World, and we’re very close to Universal and Disney as well.”