Each of the three development groups bidding for hotel sites at Osceola Heritage Park and NeoCity will get a chance to make their presentation to the county’s selection committee in person.
But first the committee wants more details about each group’s financing and long-term strategy for the properties.
The three-member committee reviewed the Letter of Interest packages submitted by hotel developers AD1 Development, Riviera Point and Marshall Hotels. The county is looking to partner with a private development group to build and manage three hotels at OHP and one in NeoCity.
The committee is composed of Planning Director Kerry Godwin, W192 Development Authority Director Christina Morris and planner John Arend. Overall, they were pleased with the number, quality and variety from the three groups.
Morris said she wanted to feel confident the group that wins the contract can carry the project across the finish line.
“It all looks nice to me,” Morris said. “I just want to pick the most financially responsible people. I sure they can all do it, but can they all do it?”
All of the committee members said they preferred the proposals from AD1 and the OHP Joint Venture (Marshall) that included retail uses to support the new hotels. The Riviera Point concept only showed hotel uses at all four sites.
“I think for that particular area, with all the events and everything happening at OHP, to not have some kind of mixed use product on that property is lost revenue,” Morris said.
Godwin also pointed out that some of the concepts submitted by the bidders failed to take into account the E192 CRA design guidelines, which require new development to take an urban form and front on the main streets. Most of the hotel concepts appeared to have a suburban feel, which isn’t what the county wants for the area.
Godwin said the fact that Osceola received three strong LOI packages reflects the progress the county has made to improve the E192 corridor. “Really, the county has worked hard on the East 192 CRA trying to upgrade and redevelop that area, especially after the Great Recession,” he said. “We’re seeing signs of it all along the corridor, and this just amplifies what we had hoped would happen.”
He said it’s important to get the hotel developer on board soon, because the county is about a month away from initiating a new master plan process for OHP, taking into account the new emphasis on soccer. Orlando City Soccer Club chose the park for its permanent training facility and development academy.
“One of the reasons why we wanted to send this out to now is that we had already initiated the master plan, we already have an engineering consultant on board who has started the mastering engineering process for the project.” Godwin said. “We should have the planning consultant on board within the next 30 days, and we wanted to have someone on board to be a part of the overall team approach.”
Procurement Director Rebecca Jones said she would ask the county’s comptroller to review the LOIs and assist the committee in its evaluation process. “This process grows as it goes," she said. “There’s not a cookie-cutter way an LOI moves forward, other than not standing still. This is a marathon, not a sprint."