The long-vacant M Hotel on Orlando’s International Drive tourism corridor is being razed to clear the way for a new 8-story luxury apartment community by Atlanta-based Del American Real Estate Group.
Property owner Micah Bass posted a video of the demolition crew taking down the 176-room motel he has owned since 2010. Bass purchased the former Howard Johnson just north of Carrier Drive for $2.85 million and reopened it under his own independent brand. He struck a deal with Del American President Anthony DelGuidice for the redevelopment plan in 2020, but it was put on hold during the pandemic.
DelGuidice told GrowthSpotter the company founded by his father over 30 years ago is a boutique development firm that focuses on delivering quality homes that feel like living in a luxury hotel. “We don’t do as much in the way of volume, per se as most of the other groups out there. But we build an extremely high-end product,” he said.
DelGuidice said the zoning would have allowed a density of up to 600 units, but they submitted for 329 units under their SLX brand, which stands for “Surpassing Living eXpectations.”
Some of the features will include 24-hour concierge service and valet parking, poolside food and beverage service, and optional services like housekeeping and dog walking. The design is modern and elegant. “It’s kind of like a Miami meets Beverly Hills meets Las Vegas, as far as an overall design look and feeling,” he said.
Premium units will feature free-standing tubs within an Italian-tiled bathroom with ceiling-mounted faucets. The kitchens would have professional-grade appliances.
“We look to really provide upgrades that our residents will use — things that will benefit and improve their day-to-day. Because at the end of the day, a smart system throughout your residence is going to provide you a lot more benefit than an extra foot and a half of ceiling.”
The development matrix calls for 90 studios, 120 one-bedroom units, 89 two-bedroom units and 30 three-bedroom units. The plan doesn’t specify how many of the units would have premium finishes.
The company has submitted a master plan designed by Humphreys & Partners, utilizing a three-level podium-style parking structure with four separate courtyards and outdoor amenities on the roof of the parking garage and a 2-story internal clubhouse. An underground exfiltration system would treat any stormwater runoff before discharging it to the city’s utility system.
The ground floor allocates more than 7,000 square feet for a restaurant that will front on I-Drive and have its own designated parking area in the garage. The 4,075-square-foot lobby is also located on the first floor. DelGuidice said the master plan could be tweaked, if approved by the city, to incorporate up to three restaurants.
“It’s still a little up in the air as far as exactly where we’re putting the potentially three restaurants,” he said. “That being said, we do have plans for one restaurant as well as a cafe right off the main lobby.” Another could be located on the courtyard level with covered outdoor dining. The final concept under consideration is a sensory dining experience, which may be incorporated into the amenity stack on the third floor.
The north elevation, which is visible from the adjacent Avanti Palms Resort & Conference Center, would camouflage the parking structure with water features and faux-storefront windows.
DelGuidice said the fountains are an homage to his father, who had designed a similar water feature for his proposed Vegas 888 condo tower that ultimately never got built. “That property would have been, without a doubt, in my opinion, the most beautiful building that would have existed at that point in time in the United States,” he said. “It was breathtaking.”
The rest of the development team includes Kimley Horn and Verlander Landscape Architecture. The pool courtyard will have a “pool party bungalow” area equipped with an outdoor kitchen, a video wall sound system, lighting package and communal dining. Another courtyard will be the designated pet park — they call it Bark Avenue.
The developer is also working closely with Steven Verlander to create a crystal garden/meditation space in another courtyard that could feature large geodes or “tree of life” theme.
“So every single developer out there has the Zen Garden, and it’s always the Zen Garden, and it’s the same thing. It’s a bench with a couple of trees — and it’s not really Zen and it’s not really a garden,” DelGuidice said. At SLX, almost everything in the crystal garden will have to be custom fabricated to create a truly serene environment where residents can “be at one with the universe.”
Despite the luxury finishes and services, Del American intends to charge rents that are competitive with other Class-A rental communities in the market. “You can only charge as much as people are willing to pay,” DelGuidice said. The company supplements its revenue stream by offering short-term rental units during the initial lease-up period.
Del American expects to close on the property by mid-December and start construction in early 2023. The project will be constructed in one phase but apartment units will be delivered in two phases, with the first 160-190 units delivered in phase 1. That could take anywhere from 16-18 months, with the balance completed in 20-24 months.
Del American was founded in Orlando but moved its corporate office to Atlanta in 2016. Del American has developed 18 apartment communities, consisting of over 6,500 units over the past 30 years. Those include the 252-unit Pure Living Heathrow, which is managed by Cambridge, and SLX Atlanta, which opened in 2020 and was sold in late 2021.
Currently, Del American is planning new apartment developments throughout Florida and Texas. Del American’s current apartment developments will be positioned to convert to condominiums when market conditions are appropriate.
The project would be surrounded by new luxury residential construction, including Triton Cay Orlando, a 580-unit complex on Lakehurst Drive that was co-developed by Edwards Communities and Silver Hills Development. The former Republic Square shopping center on Universal Boulevard, was demolished to make way for 350 apartments by Legacy Partners Residential.
Over at the Dezerland site on I-Drive, American Landmark Apartments and Prospect Real Estate are wrapping up the first phase of the Deseo Grand apartments and expect to break ground on a second phase this summer.
Miami-based Altis Cardinal has a 340-unit apartment complex in the pipeline just south of Dezerland, on the 3.7-acre site just outside the entrance of Lennar’s Storey Drive Resort community.
And Bainbridge Companies, a South Florida-based luxury multifamily developer has approved plans to build a 397-unit community on the site of the former Mystery Fun House at 5767 Major Blvd., between S. Kirkman Road and Interstate 4. The same developer recently submitted an updated master plan for Bainbridge Universal, a 5-story apartment community at 7575 Universal Blvd. with 367 units. The project was previously approved for 330 units.