The skyrocketing cost of renovating a Kissimmee hotel complex on Lake Cecile is prompting the owners to look at demolishing the remaining buildings and starting over with new construction.
Canadian investors Martin Coulombe and his wife, Brigitte Giguere, bought the long-vacant hotel on W192 in 2012, and have slowly been renovating the first three buildings and clubhouse. The 144-unit property was built in 1982 and operated for years as a Residence Inn by Marriott.
Giguere and general contractor Danny Smith met last week with Osceola County officials to discuss their options.
"We have done three buildings, and it has been really expensive to do that because we have had to build everything from zero," Giguere said. "We want to ask permission to demolish the rest of the buildings. We now have 48 units we want to keep."
Smith said the amount of work has been extensive because the buildings were so deteriorated. "It's wood frame structures and they're dealing with a lot of water damage -- like you wouldn't even believe," he said. "It was abandoned for 10 years, so I'm having to build a project within a project."
Smith, president of Distinctive Builders, said they decided to approach the county with the demolition idea, and to their surprise, the county staff endorsed it.
"I think it's a wise decision to go in a different direction," principal engineer Jose Gomez said.
And though Giguere was only asking to replace the 96 demolished units with the same number, staff told her the zoning would allow 60 units per acre.
"You can put as many in as you want within the allowable density, but the issue here is site constraints, parking and traffic," Development Review Director Mahmoud Najda told them.
He said the Commercial Tourist zoning has no height restriction. And the county eliminated the 85-foot setback requirement on W192, which means the new buildings could be moved closer to the road -- and out of the existing floodplain.
"We have a grant that would pay $75,000 toward that demolition," he said. "If you apply, I can get it before my board in October and we can start knocking those down. I'm very confident my board would approve taking those down because they look pretty rough."
Smith said he wasn't expecting such a positive response, and it opens up all kinds of new possibilities for the site.
"We're very optimistic," Smith said. "It's exciting for Martin. It's not that he's not willing to spend the money, it's that he's spending that kind of money on an older property and we can't warranty it."
They hope to complete the renovations and reopen the hotel in December as Satisfaction Lake Cecile. "The majority of that work is done," he said, adding that the clubhouse has been gutted and repaired. "Now I just need to get my trades in there and then we can start rocking and rolling."
Smith said they also plan to rebuild the hotel's boat dock and add a Tiki Bar next to the pool. "Back in the 1980s, when it was a Residence Inn, they had a Tiki Bar and it was a local hangout," he said.
He told GrowthSpotter that Coulombe has the experience and financial ability to do something really special on the property. His Satisfaction Corp. has already completed the renovation of a 200-room motel at Vine and Thacker, which reopened as Satisfaction Resort Orlando. Smith said Coulombe plans to build a small apartment complex on a vacant parcel directly behind that hotel.
The corporation also owns about half of the Oakwater Resort on Old Lake Wilson Road, as well as 7.6 acres of vacant land on Poinciana Boulevard that's slated for multifamily.