PRISA & Unicorp partner on plans for new Element hotel at I-Drive 360

An affiliate of Puerto Rican developer PRISA Group is joint-venturing with Unicorp National Developments on a new Element by Westin hotel adjacent to the I-Drive 360 complex, with First Quarter 2018 eyed for groundbreaking and a construction lender sought, lead executives with both companies told GrowthSpotter.

A Development Plan was filed Monday in Orange County for the hotel, which would be built on the site of the former McFadden's restaurant that fronts Universal Boulevard, directly northeast of The Orlando Eye. The restaurant's 1.82-acre parcel is within the I-Drive Entertainment District controlled by Unicorp. 

"PRISA contacted us and wanted to know if we had any property available to do a hotel, I said we have the McFadden's site and wouldn't sell it, but would do a JV," said Chuck Whittall, Unicorp president. "They delivered the flag, and Peachtree (Hotel Group) will likely manage." 

The joint venture will be a 50/50 split between the two developers, with Unicorp contributing the land, some equity and Whittall's help leading the project through local government approvals. 

PRISA is the sponsor group, bringing the Element by Westin flag, cash equity and will procure a lender for the eight-story, 165-room extended stay hotel, president Federico Stubbe, Jr. said Monday.

"We like to develop hotels in association with urban entertainment districts, because we think those have an edge in attracting the type of guest we want and providing the best overall stay experience," he said. "We've been very impressed with Unicorp's track record, and I-Drive 360 itself. We like the Element brand because we have a deep relationship with Marriott International, and believe in the lifestyle extended stay niche." 

This would be PRISA's second hotel development in Orlando in the past two years. The company's first, a dual-branded Marriott hotel directly southeast of and behind the Mall at Millenia, is now under construction. 

L2 Studios is the project architect and Kimley-Horn is civil engineer. A general contractor has yet to be chosen by PRISA, though Welbro Building Corp. will be given early consideration due to its GC role on the Millenia hotel project, which should open in Q1 2018 on time and on budget, Stubbe said. 

Total project investment is estimated around $35 million, he added. A construction loan will be sought by PRISA in time for the Q1 2018 groundbreaking target.

Unicorp's I-Drive 360 complex and this prospective hotel stand to gain from future development directly east of Universal Boulevard, where 457.08 acres across eight parcels are owned by Universal Orlando affiliate SLRC Holdings, which it bought in December 2015 from Colony Capital. 

Directly south of the McFadden's site is a surface parking lot between the Orlando Eye wheel and Universal Boulevard. Whittall said Monday no immediate plans are being pursued for redevelopment of that lot.  

Unicorp has an ownership stake in the Wyndham Orlando Resort that fronts W. Sand Lake Road (27.18 acres), the I-Shops retail strip to its west that fronts I-Drive (10.42 acres), the Walgreens store on the Sand Lake Road corner (1.49 acres), the Kings Plaza retail center directly south of that (8.9 acres) and the I-Drive 360 complex (18.69 acres). 

This is the second hotel plan proposed in the I-Drive tourism corridor in the past week to carry the Element by Westin flag, following AD1 Global's dual-brand project planned southeast of SeaWorld. 

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