After sitting vacant for years, the Toscana Suites is the kind of property most investors run away from -- the very definition of blight on Kissimmee's W192 tourist corridor.
It was virtually gutted, overgrown and filled with trash, a haven for squatters, and was on the verge of racking up $1,500 a day in fines from Osceola County Code Enforcement.
Chief Code Enforcement Officer Tom Wilkinson told GrowthSpotter the county had multiple cases on the property going back to 2014, and had attempted to foreclose on it once before. The property was such an eyesore it led the county to beef up its building maintenance codes within the W192 redevelopment district.
"We didn’t have codes in place to address it," Wilkenson said.
But Mohammad Jumani and his son, Fahad, saw the 10 acres just west of Disney property -- with a view of the nightly fireworks -- as a golden opportunity. The Pakistan native bought the 390-room motel on Reedy Creek Boulevard in late September for $2.4 million cash.
"I loved it," Fahad Jumani said in a recent interview. "Whenever I see this kind of property, from our position it’s a project. It gives us a lot more to do, and the flexibility to do a lot more."
The elder Jumani knew it was a gamble, but he was willing to take the risk. The property was bank-owned, and Jumani said the seller refused to let him see inside the building. He said it was like he was buying the site blindfolded.
"They didn't give us a single piece of paper," he said. "They were supposed to hand us all the documents, all the drawings – electrical, plumbing everything. We are hiring the people to make them from scratch."
Time is of the essence. The Jumanis signed a consent order pledging to clean it up in six months -- otherwise the code enforcement fines will kick in. They've already met deadlines to remove the junk and overgrowth, and to secure the property.
"It was so filthy," said property manager Sanam Kripaleani. "We filled 35 to 40 containers just to clean it up."
They applied to rezone the property from a Planned Development to Tourist Commercial and are required to file a Site Development Plan by Wednesday, Dec. 21.
The plan is to divide the property into two separate hotels: the back half will become a 63-unit, all-suite hotel with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
Fahad Jumani said the all-suites project requires no structural changes, but the company will invest $5 million on a floor-to-ceiling renovation and construction of new lobby area. The swimming pool will get replastered and tiled, and the Jumanis will add cabanas and a new gaming lounge at the back of the property for teens.
The company has already applied for a Hawthorne Suites extended-stay flag. "We want to get up and running as soon as possible," he said. "We’re looking at a target for the all-suites to open doors within three months."
He hopes to complete a total renovation of the front half of the property and reopen it within a year. The Jumanis say they will invest up to $7 million on the front portion of the property, converting it into a 208-room interior-corridor branded hotel with its own restaurant and ample meeting space.
"The structural engineers did the inspection. They said the structure is satisfactory," Fahad Jumani said. "It's a common practice that is being done with all the old hotels now."
He said the finishes will be contemporary. "I personally prefer the modern taste," he said, "and all the hotels are coming out with new modern prototypes."
The goal is to make it a four-star property. They are currently negotiating with multiple hotel companies but have not reached a deal.
People who know the family say there were the perfect buyers for the hotel because they're experienced hoteliers -- and they're extremely well-funded.
"We don’t have even a single penny financing from here," Mohammad Jumani said. "We are arranging all financing from overseas."
Jumani Hospitality Inc. is a U.S. affiliate of Pakistan-based Jumani Group, which owns a pair of luxury hotels in Dubai, a construction company in Karachi and that country's largest sugar processing business.
"We've been in the hotel business since 1989," Mohammad Jumani said. He previously owned the East Gate Motel on Kissimmee's E192 corridor but sold it in 2004. That's where Fahad learned the trade, managing the hotel while earning his business degree from UCF.
"I was selling rooms for $19.99 plus tax – so that taught me a lot," he said. "I can’t complain -- if you want to sell your room you’ve got to vacuum it yourself, clean the bathroom yourself -- if the toilet’s clogged you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and fix it yourself.
"From there I went to the Dubai four-star property, even that was a project," he added. "It started out as a two-star and I kept upgrading it because I saw the four-star potential of the property."
The rezoning case goes to Osceola's DRC this week, and the Site Development Plan (SDP) is due Wednesday, according to the consent order. That will likely go to DRC in January.
The Jumanis must obtain construction permits and building permits within 90 days of SDP approval, and they must bring the property into compliance within 220 days of receiving building permits.
Wilkerson has been impressed so far with their progress at the Kissimmee property. "We worked with him very closely," he said. "Our ultimate goal is voluntary compliance -- not punitive action."