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Universal files more detailed PD plans for I-Drive property, shows hotel towers

This updated conceptual landscape plan was submitted prior to the July 24 second reading by Orlando's City Council of the PD zoning ordinance. It is very similar to the previous plan, with the most notable change being the hardscaped plaza at the SE corner of the Universal Boulevard and International Drive to more closely match conditions listed in the ordinance.
This updated conceptual landscape plan was submitted prior to the July 24 second reading by Orlando's City Council of the PD zoning ordinance. It is very similar to the previous plan, with the most notable change being the hardscaped plaza at the SE corner of the Universal Boulevard and International Drive to more closely match conditions listed in the ordinance. (City of Orlando)

Universal Orlando filed detailed zoning plans this week with the City of Orlando for redevelopment of its Wet n' Wild property on International Drive, showing the prospective layout and design of hotel towers that would total 4,000 guestrooms.

The company filed a Framework Planned Development for the property, which includes an equivalency matrix outlining the various options for conversion of land uses. It's a followup to the initial Framework Master Plan the company filed back in mid-March for the "Project 566," in which it confirmed plans to redevelop the property with hotels.

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A proposed landscape plan for the eastern side of Universal Boulevard.
A proposed landscape plan for the eastern side of Universal Boulevard. (Universal Orlando)

Located at 6200 International Dr., 64.6 acres that make up the former water park property lie across nine contiguous parcels, with 23.65 acres for the water park site lying west of Universal Boulevard, and the rest of the land on the eastern side composed of parking, storage and support buildings.

An architectural site plan for the eastern side of Universal Boulevard depicts a central arrival and lobby building, with two U-shaped guestroom towers on either side. Two parking garages are on the site, along with a swimming pool, pool deck, pool bar and restrooms. A traffic study indicates 2,800 rooms would be allocated to this side.

On the western side of Universal Boulevard, a central arrival and lobby building on the street corner would have five guestroom buildings flanking its left and right with the remaining 1,200 rooms, one parking garage in the northwest corner where Wet 'n Wild's entry used to be, and a pool area and amenities facing the lake.

A rendering showing proposed hotel towers on Universal's property to the east of Universal Boulevard, what was formerly a large parking lot area for Wet n' Wild, with International Drive in the foreground.
A rendering showing proposed hotel towers on Universal's property to the east of Universal Boulevard, what was formerly a large parking lot area for Wet n' Wild, with International Drive in the foreground. (Universal Orlando)

The water park closed in December after 39 years, and demolition began in January.

Each of the specific hotel development parcels would have further refined site plans submitted. The proposal anticipates distributing up to 4,000 hotel rooms, or equivalent uses, across two branded properties.

Images and renderings included in the Framework PD are conceptual in nature, the company noted in its submission letter.

Hotels would be branded/themed to complement existing on-site Universal hotels, and will feature resort-style landscaping, amenities including retail, food and beverage outlets, resort-style pools and more.

A landscape plan for the property on the western side of Universal Boulevard, with International Drive on the left side of the image.
A landscape plan for the property on the western side of Universal Boulevard, with International Drive on the left side of the image. (Universal Orlando)

Parking will include at-grade and structured, with garages that face I-Drive to be landscaped to the maximum extent possible.

A shuttle service operated by Universal will move guests between the hotels and Universal Orlando theme parks. Main entrances to the properties will be on Universal Boulevard, with secondary entry/exit points on I-Drive.

Donald W. McIntosh & Associates is civil engineer on the project, and transportation planning was provided by VHB.

Universal is seeking traffic concurrency approval, as full development is expected to generate 17,720 daily trip, per VHB's traffic study. The company will try to promote alternative modes of transportation, but the surrounding roadway network won't be significantly impacted by the traffic increases, according to VHB.

A rendering from the Framework PD Master Plan showing the perspective of hotel towers on the western side of Universal Boulevard, on the site of the former Wet 'n Wild water park, with International Drive fronting the property.
A rendering from the Framework PD Master Plan showing the perspective of hotel towers on the western side of Universal Boulevard, on the site of the former Wet 'n Wild water park, with International Drive fronting the property. (Universal Orlando)

Universal's corporate owner Comcast has stressed in the past year a desire to maximize lodging on the Universal Orlando properties. Construction is underway on a sixth hotel near the theme parks, the Aventura Hotel (600 rooms), along with two new towers at Cabana Bay Resort (400 rooms).

Universal currently has 5,200 rooms across its five local hotels, and will have 6,200 after those two projects are completed. Another 4,000 rooms on the former Wet n' Wild property would bring the company to a potential 10,200 rooms, across an estimated seven or eight hotels.

That still pales in comparison to Walt Disney World's 30,623 rooms across 31 on-site hotels.

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Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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