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The Residence Inn by Marriott hotel, located at the corner of N. Orange Avenue and W. Colonial Drive.
The Residence Inn by Marriott hotel, located at the corner of N. Orange Avenue and W. Colonial Drive. (Bob Moser)

Ustler Development's 138-room Residence Inn at 680 N. Orange Ave. will have its soft opening in late July and official opening Aug. 10 without a tenant for its 4,000-square-foot restaurant space.

Located at the corner of N. Orange and Colonial Drive, the $27 million project, originally a planned office building that evolved into a hotel, has been under construction since early 2014 by Maitland-based Welbro Building Corp. 

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Developer Craig Ustler, who co-owns the property with Pinnacle Hotel Management, says he's open to a variety of restaurant concepts for the ground-floor space, "as long as they are a good fit for the neighborhood."

Rusty Stoeckel, commercial broker marketing the property for Sperry Van Ness Demetree Real Estate Servicessaid a "sit-down, full-service" concept with a bar remains the goal for leasing the space, but he and Ustler are still trying to find "the right tenant."

"We would want a concept that would complement the flavor of the North Quarter with the younger urban residents, while still drawing from the Central Business District," he said. "There will be the opportunity to create outdoor patio space on Colonial."

Once a tenant is identified and signed, the design, permitting and build-out period could take five to seven months before a restaurant will open there.

"It is safe to say that the space will not be active by August/September," Stoeckel said.

Seventeen new restaurants have opened in Downtown Orlando since July 2014, according to David Barilla, assistant director of the Downtown Development Board.

He sees the Orange-Colonial intersection as "the future Main and Main" for Downtown Orlando, an ideal location near two major roadways, residential growth of the blossoming North Quarter, and future redevelopment of The Sentinel's 19-acre property.

"The heart of Downtown is south of that, but we see development moving there," Barilla said. "The North Quarter has grown like wildfire with residential, and we see commercial development downtown moving north. From a long-term location standpoint, it can't be beat."

More than 1,700 apartments are active or under construction within walking distance of Ustler's Residence Inn, and the area's abundant commercial space is being augmented by 17,000 more square feet of office building space under construction nearby.

While the hotel's location boasts such advantages, the pace of traffic on one-way Orange Avenue limits retail and dining to a degree, said Bobby Palta, first vice president of CBRE Brokerage Services, who specializes in retail and has delivered multiple restaurant lease tenants downtown in recent years.

"If the city would work with FDOT to try and move the idea of a two-way portion of Orange Avenue along, that would do wonders to open up that area for further development," he said. "It's probably been looked at, but if the city would look deeper into that it would certainly help."

Enhancing downtown's street grid "is on the forefront of what we want to do," said Barilla, and while city government doesn't control all those decisions it does contribute to them.

"Two-way traffic and off-street parking are obviously ideal for any type of retail location," he said. "What we found is that though we do have one-way streets in downtown, because we have people who consistently visit downtown, they get the hang of it and learn to navigate."

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

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