This artists rendering shows the Margaritaville Resort hotel and swimming lagoon, as well as the main lake that will offer water shuttles.
This artists rendering shows the Margaritaville Resort hotel and swimming lagoon, as well as the main lake that will offer water shuttles. (Encore Capital Management)

Margaritaville Resort will create a trio of landmark entrances on U.S. 192 through its sign package that will be photo-ops for years to come, developer Jim Bagley told GrowthSpotter on Thursday.

"We expect to bring a Vegas-style entertainment sign package that's very compelling and very tasteful, very themed, but unique to our brand," he said.

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Bagley provided a briefing Thursday morning to the W192 Development Authority, and received a critical designation of Entertainment District that waives the agency's strict sign regulations.

"We look at ourselves very differently from a strip center," he said.

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Old Town was the first destination to utilize the waiver this year to install a neon jukebox-themed sign as part of its $20 million makeover.

W192DA Executive Director David Buchheit said the entertainment sign waiver was created exactly for projects like Margaritaville.

"We want the sign to be a part of the entertainment," he said. "That means people are going to want to get their picture taken in front of the sign, and as soon as it goes up it's going to be all over Facebook."

Bagley said there was no question the resort and associated water park would qualify for entertainment signs. But he needed direction from the authority on whether the Margaritaville shopping district would also qualify.

The hotel lobby at Margaritaville Resort is highlighted by a chandelier made of margarita glasses.
The hotel lobby at Margaritaville Resort is highlighted by a chandelier made of margarita glasses. (Encore Capital Management)

"We're over 60-percent leased," he said. "Everyone wants to know what that signage is going to look like."

The board agreed that since the shopping center would host concerts and public events, it would be eligible for the same exemption. That gives the developer, Encore Capital Management, carte blanche to design the entertainment sign. The final design would be approved by the agency's architectural review board.

Bagley also touched on a number of details about the resort's construction schedule, theming and technology.

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The 200,000-square-foot shopping district is at the 30-percent construction point and should be completed this year. It will include multiple music venues, the largest of which will seat between 500 and 700 people.

Construction on the water park could start as early as May. Bagley said the resort is projecting between 600,000 and 700,000 visitors per year.

Phase 1 of the vacation homes will be under construction in July, with the first closings by year's end, Bagely said. The 187-room hotel is fully permitted, and construction will start in June. It's scheduled to open in Third Quarter 2018.

Bagley said each hotel room would come equipped with an iPad loaded with the resort's app, which can be synced with the user's smartphone. The app will serve as a guide throughout the 300-acre property to assist with navigation and wayfinding, and to allow visitors to order meals, make dining reservations or even request a shuttle.

Margaritaville also will employ radio frequency identification technology, either a wristband or medallion, that connects directly to point-of-sale outlets throughout the resort.

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Walkability is another strong component of the resort, which is designed with an extensive trail network, a robust tram system and water shuttles to move visitors around the complex.

"Our pitch is once you park you car you don't need it again," Bagley said. "The experience here is the walkability, the scenery, the landscaping, kind of the ambiance – and you can't get that in a car."

The internal transportation network is especially important to international visitors.

"Our experience at Reunion has been very telling," Bagley said. "What we find is a lot of guests don't like to rent cars, they might not have (a drivers) license."

For more information, visit our Margaritaville Resort project page.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407)420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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