UPDATED: JUNE 30, 2018 2:21 PM — Rollins College is about a month away from filing plans for expansion of The Alfond Inn, the first of three new development projects to come on campus that are driven by multi-million dollar private gifts.
The college has received "a substantial" monetary gift from a donor within the past year, Jeffrey Eisenbarth, vice president for business, finance and treasurer, told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday.
He declined to share the value or donor name, but the money was earmarked for Rollins' strategic planning process. That includes an "Innovation Triangle" plan focused on expansion of The Alfond Inn, a new business school building for the Crummer MBA program, and a new building on campus for the Cornell Fine Arts Museum.
Expanding the hotel will be the first project tackled in the coming months with that gifted revenue, Eisenbarth said.
"We're operating at 90 percent average occupancy, so the biggest problem we have is people can't get a room," he said. "It's a big plus on the revenue side, but on the renewal and maintenance side we never have time to go in and replace materials. We had a market study completed last year, and there is clear high unmet demand."
Early-stage planning and fundraising efforts for expanding the hotel were coordinated by the college last year, first reported here in October 2016.
Located at 300 E. New England Ave. a block north of the Rollins College campus, the five-story, 112-key hotel covers 3.35 acres, which include a 122-space surface parking lot to its east.
When the hotel was built prior to its August 2013 opening, it was done with future expansion in mind in an eastward direction down New England Avenue, running up to the city's 1.67-acre public library property.
That addition will be approximately 70 rooms on the surface parking lot, a 7,000-square-foot spa, 4,000 square feet of meeting/art gallery space, 323 square feet of retail space, and a new parking garage to accommodate all guests of the hotel, Eisenbarth said.
Rollins is still finalizing the project design, but anticipates submitting plans to the city the first week of May, he added. Hearings by the Planning and Zoning Board and City Commission would run through July, with final approval by July or August and a fall groundbreaking to follow.
The college will work with the same architect and general contractor that built the hotel's first phase, Baker Barrios and Brasfield & Gorrie. Other consultant positions have yet to be filled.
Eisenbarth declined to forecast a total project cost at this stage. Charitable gifts will cover the hotel expansion, he noted, with general college funds not to be tapped.
The property is fully entitled for expansion up to 260 hotel rooms, giving Rollins a clear path for expansion.
Opened in part as a recruiting tool and first impression for prospective Rollins students, demographics now show roughly 90 percent of the Alfond's patrons are not college-related guests, Eisenbarth said.
The Alfond Inn is one of only two hotels in Winter Park, along with the 24-room Park Plaza Hotel on Park Avenue.
Plans had been filed back in October 2016 by a group of local investors, led by Winter Park-based attorney Mike Maher, proposing to convert a 16-year-old office building near downtown Winter Park into a 120-room boutique hotel with new construction.
But city staff said this week this project is on hold for the foreseeable future, due to a lease of the office building to new tenants.