Developer files rezoning & vets new hotel options for downtown Travelodge site

A Tennessee-based developer has a rezoning request in for downtown Orlando's oldest hotel property, and is starting to refine its vision for a new and larger hotel that would complement the neighboring historic district. 

GrowthSpotter first reported on Feb. 12 that developer 3H Group had the 1.08-acre parcel under contract at 409 N. Magnolia Ave., based on the northeast corner with E. Livingston Street and directly east of the Orange County Courthouse. 

The property is anchored by the 75-room Travelodge Orlando Downtown and former City Diner, the latter having closed in mid-February. Both buildings date to 1958. 

3H Group filed a rezoning request and Future Land Use amendment for the property this week to change it from Office-High Intensity to Downtown-Activity Center, and to establish a Subarea Policy (GMP) to limit building height and address transition to the neighboring historic district.

CEO Hiren Desai told GrowthSpotter on Thursday his company wants to build a new hotel on the property that can accommodate the business traveler and attract leisure travelers to downtown, but said further details on the potential room count or hotel flag haven't been determined. A Master Plan with those details would follow rezoning. 

Finding a structured parking solution will also be necessary for a future hotel on the limited site, though two blocks to the south Stratus Development Partners was able to do just that for its approved eight-story Cambria Suites, which has an even smaller footprint. 

Desai cited a desire to improve the visual design on what is a busy downtown street corner, make it more pedestrian-friendly, and be "very cognizant" of the Lake Eola Heights Historic District and "listen to their needs." 

The Lake Eola Heights neighborhood directly east is one of Orlando's oldest and most architecturally diverse neighborhoods, and was given Historic District status by the city in 1989.

Desai said he envisions having a secondary structure on the property for a dining outlet, like there is today. Whether that lies within the building footprint of a new hotel or outside it as a standalone restaurant has yet to be determined. 

3H Group is not seeking any variances from the city for height or density. But a future hotel design could reference Banner Real Estate's 13-story apartment building that will lie directly south, which city officials approved rezoning and design for last fall, and is now on pace to break ground by June.

The land under contract is owned by three family trusts in a partnership that dates back to the early 1950s. Those trusts are now managed by members of the Ward and Rex families, and four heirs of the William H. Jayne Trust. 

Jordan Companies is civil engineer on 3H Group's project thus far, Atlanta-based Lindsay Pope Brayfield Clifford & Assoc. the architect, and St. Cloud-based Fisher Planning and Development Services the planner. 

3H Group owns and operates 20 hotels in six states, five of which are in Florida, with two in Altamonte Springs. The company's development niche is focused on select- and limited-service hotels, working primarily with Marriott and IHG flags. 

If seen through, the Travelodge site would be 3H Group's second hotel acquisition or development in Orlando.

Its market entry is a planned 148-key TownePlace Suites on 2.31 acres under contract from North American Properties, within the mixed-use "Grand National" project on the north end of International Drive. Desai said Thursday 3H Group is now working with a consultant to lead that project through its construction plan design and permit review. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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