|By Christopher Boyd, The Orlando
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 10, 2006 - Construction is expected to begin late this year on a towering luxury hotel project that would add 1,300 rooms and a 1,000-seat performing-arts theater to southwest Orlando.
Called the Blue Rose Resort, the development is expected to cost $850 million and take as long as three years to build. It is planned for midway between the Orange County Convention Center and Universal Orlando.
CMA Cos., a Miami development group, expects to break ground on the project's first phase, which would include 515 rooms and suites, a theater that features Broadway shows, five restaurants and 75,000 square feet of meeting space. When complete, the project would consist of centrally connected towers.
The development group said the exact height of the 39-story development hadn't been determined.
"We're just saying it will be one of the tallest buildings in Orlando," said Camilo Aguirre, one of three development partners. "We're not looking to get into a competition over who can build the biggest yacht, so to speak."
Developers of Orlando City Place -- planned for a city block at Colonial Drive and Interstate 4 -- also are aiming high. They want to build Orlando's tallest skyscraper, a 460-foot-high residential building that would eclipse downtown's current record holder, the 441-foot-high SunTrust Center.
Though investors would own rooms in the Blue Rose, the resort would operate like a conventional hotel. CMA said the first phase would contain studios and suites with 575 square feet to more that 3,000 square feet at prices starting at more than $300,000.
"We estimate the first phase will take 18 to 24 months to complete," Aguirre said.
Suites would have an assortment of posh appointments, including big-screen plasma television, granite countertops and leather furniture. It would have a five-story lobby and 2,000 covered parking spaces.
The city of Orlando approved plans for the development last fall. Aguirre said the Federal Aviation Administration still must approve the towers' heights.
Aguirre has two partners, financier Gary Cohen and Jean Marc Meunier, a French developer who has been involved in a large number of hotel and entertainment projects in South Florida and cities around the country.
The hotel, on 13 acres facing a lake, is at the intersection of Universal Boulevard and Carrier Drive, about 11/2 miles from the convention center. Aguirre said the center's expansion has created demand for luxury lodging.
The Blue Rose would join two other luxury hotels that are either in the works or planning to expand near the convention center. Hotelier Harris Rosen is building the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, which is scheduled for completion this year. The Peabody Hotel on International Drive is finalizing financing for an expansion that would include a second tower.
Abe Pizam, dean of the University of Central Florida College of Hospitality Management, said a luxury hotel would fill a regional demand.
"The Orlando market has a shortage of luxury rooms," Pizam said. "Many conventions look around at the kind of rooms that are available, not just the number of rooms. And we don't have enough luxury rooms within a reasonable distance of the convention center."
Christopher Boyd can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5723.
Copyright (c) 2006, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
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