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Land deal prepped for next major anchor hotel to Convention Center

Land deal prepped for next major anchor hotel to Convention Center
The 20 acres targeted for a major hotel development are owned by Orlando Equity Partners LLC, and lie north of Universal Boulevard, at the intersection with Convention Way. (Orange County Property Appraiser)

Twenty undeveloped acres on Universal Boulevard will be marketed as soon as Monday as an ideal site for Orange County Convention Center's next massive anchor hotel, with some of the world's top hotel chains and developers to be pursued, local commercial brokers tell GrowthSpotter.

The property, directly north of the T-intersection of Universal Boulevard and Convention Way, is part of a previously approved Planned Development (PD) that allows for all relevant tourism uses. It's also the only property with a deeded right to build a pedestrian bridge over Universal Boulevard to the new convention center.

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A national team from CBRE's hotel group, which includes Orlando brokers, will begin shopping the property next week in New York City, at the 37th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.

This property is currently owned by Orlando Equity Partners, an LLC affiliated with Southwood Development Company in Atlanta.

With space projected for up to 1,500 rooms, the property will be priced at $25,000 to $35,000 per room, or as much as $52.5 million for the land acquisition alone, brokers told GrowthSpotter. A developer of a five-star hotel would likely invest $500 million or more, when considering land and construction costs.

This would be the first anchor hotel for the convention center since the 1,400-room Hilton Orlando was built in 2009, which adjoins with the South Concourse of the center's North/South Building via an elevated pedestrian walkway.

The Hyatt Regency Orlando, acquired by Hyatt Hotels Corp. in August 2013 for roughly $436,928 for each of its 1,641 rooms ($717 million overall), will have a $9.6 million, 410-foot pedestrian bridge built to connect it over I-Drive to the convention center. Apopka-based Southland Construction Inc. was chosen in May as the county's contractor for the project, which could be complete by 2017.

Orlando's hotel industry is thriving in 2015, with area hotels at 81.4 percent occupancy in April, up 3 percent from a year ago. The Convention Center Plaza sub-market for hotels is arguably the strongest in the region for occupancy and average daily rate.

But even with up to 23,000 rooms available in that sub-market, they still need more to meet demand for the nation's second largest convention center to score points for "walkability" with attendees, said Kathie Canning, executive director of the Orange County Convention Center.

"A hotel project like that on Universal Boulevard sounds promising, because development there would help us better market the north side of our convention center in the future," she said.

The convention center has expanded five times since it opened in 1983, with more than 400 acres now part of the property and $2 billion invested by Orange County in its development.

OCCC hired leading market research firm Populus last year to conduct a full campus plan study of the convention center and offer recommendations on best use for its land in the future, Canning said.

The first phase of that research is now done, and greater hotel proximity to OCCC was the No. 1 issue for convention visitors, Canning said. Populus will present the results of its Phase 1 study to Orange County's Board of Commissioners on June 30.

bmoser@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5685

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