Plans to rebuild the Monumental Movieland Hotel on N. International Drive as Parkview Resort with three times as many rooms led to questions over traffic management for Orlando's Municipal Planning Board on Tuesday.
But the property's Master Plan was given a recommendation for approval, contingent on hotel owner Northern Star Realty NY and civil engineers VHB, Inc., working with city transportation staff to resolve ingress-egress issues, and the potential need for a traffic signal at the property's main entry point along I-Drive.
Located at 6233 International Dr., Monumental Movieland lies directly across the street from Wet 'n Wild Orlando, 0.7 miles from Universal Orlando, and currently offers 261 rooms on four floors with a 9,968-square-foot Black Angus restaurant.
The semi-luxury timeshare Parkview Resort has been a project in slow-boil development over nearly a decade by the Cheng family, owners of NSRNY. They chose to push forward with a master plan earlier this year after seeing Orlando's record-setting visitor numbers of 2014, as GrowthSpotter detailed in an Aug. 3 report.
The new hotel's height has been revised down in recent weeks, from 35 floors to 23 (298 feet high), but still with a total of 809 rooms (548 more than the existing hotel), a five-story parking garage, event space, dining and retail fronting I-Drive.
Going into Tuesday's hearing, Municipal Planning staff recommended deferral of the master plan to give more time for the applicant and city transportation engineers to resolve potential queuing, signalization and pedestrian safety issues.
With Parkview more than tripling the current room count of the Monumental Movieland Hotel, city staff questioned if the amount of traffic exiting the new parking garage for left-hand turns onto I-Drive would overwhelm the property.
A traffic signal on the northeast corner of the parcel would help, but staff wouldn't initially endorse that because of existing signals in close proximity.
The Planning Board opted to hear the case and, in the end, recommended approval of the master plan. It's contingent on the subsequent Specific Parcel Master Plan being brought back to the board in a few months to prove the site's transportation issues will be resolved, prior to building permit applications, according to Jim Burnett, planner with the city of Orlando.
"This was a project the Board really liked and wanted to go forward. We convinced them we were sincere and willing to work with transportation and engineering on the site to make sure it fits with their development goals on North I-Drive," said Jim Hall, director of planning for VHB.
Hall believes recent changes to the site plan have rectified issues of on-site queuing, through directional signage that will guide guests off the property to one of two different exits onto I-Drive, depending on if they're heading north or south.
"The issue now is purely traffic and pedestrian flow, and I'm confident we can move all types in a safe manner," Hall said. "We've prepared broad sidewalks, retail frontage and a mid-block crosswalk. This project is just one of the first examples of intense parcel redevelopment on North I-Drive."
The potential need for a traffic signal in front of the future hotel's entrance is undetermined, something Hall will work out with the city's transportation engineers over the next month or two.
Two new cross-access points on the rear of the property will be stubbed out, and eventually connect to neighboring parcels when they're redeveloped in the future. It's a way for the city to treat Parkview Resort as a template for future interconnectivity on the rear of land parcels that front I-Drive, Hall said.
The Master Plan approval will allow Show-Lain Cheng, founder and CEO of NSRNY, to press on in pursuit of signing timeshare investors from China through the EB-5 visa program.
Cheng wants to get as many foreign investor-applicants ready as possible to file their initial I-526 petitions before Sept. 30, in order to potentially grandfather them in under the $500,000 minimum investment before the EB-5 regional center program possibly expires on Sept. 30.
"This would make the project much more attractive to foreign investors, because the new EB-5 (minimum) required investment could be raised to $800,000, we are hearing," said Howard Cheng, vice president of NSRNY.