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Hotelier Richard Kessler Planning a  150-room Hotel
 within Mix Use Project in Downtown Orlando

By Jack Snyder, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Apr. 26, 2006 - Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is expected today to announce a $100 million project that would add another hotel, office space, shops and a condo tower to the city's already booming downtown.

The developers are Highwoods Properties Inc., owner of the 2.2-acre site at the southeast corner of Rosalind Avenue and Pine Street, hotelier Richard Kessler, who operates the 250-room Westin Grand Bohemian Hotel on South Orange Avenue, and an unidentified "national residential builder."

Mike Beale, senior vice president for Florida operations for Highwoods Properties, said construction on all three developments would start late this year with completion in phases in 2007 and 2008.

The mixed-use project would complete the Capital Plaza development, which now comprises the Capital Plaza I and Capital Plaza II office buildings and a 167-room Embassy Suites hotel. Highwoods Properties is the largest owner of office space in downtown Orlando.

Frank Billingsley, executive director of the Downtown Development Board and the city's deputy economic director, said the developers aren't getting any incentives.

According to preliminary plans filed with the city, Kessler would develop a seven-story, 150-room hotel. No brand, or operator, has been announced. Kessler, who opened the 250-room Westin Grand Bohemian in 2001, could not be reached Tuesday.

The 13-story condo tower would have 121 apartments on top of five levels of parking. Beale said the residential developer "is a nationally known name."

The 15-story office tower would have a total of 180,000 square feet of office space on top of eight parking levels.

Between 10,000 square feet and 15,000 square feet of retail space would be included. A large, drive-in plaza would face Rosalind Avenue.

Beale said Highwoods has been evaluating the project for two years. Originally, Highwoods planned a single 450,000-square-foot office tower for the project.

But Beale said Orlando's evolving downtown demanded a high-quality development that offered space for people to live, work and play.

"I've been all over, and Orlando has the most vibrant downtown in the country," Beale said.

Orlando's city center has exploded with development in recent years. The Premiere Trade Plaza development that encompasses the block at Orange Avenue and Church Street is under construction with condos, office space and a retail center including a movie theater.

To the northwest, at Orange Avenue and Livingston Street, developers plan a massive project including more office space, condos, retail space and a hotel.

According to the Downtown Development board, 57,000 people work downtown. Projects worth more than $2 billion are either under construction or proposed.

Beale said no tenants have been signed for the office space, but he thinks he can lease it quickly.

Downtown Orlando's office space is less than 10 percent vacant. Beale said Highwoods' properties -- the company has five downtown buildings totaling about 1 million square feet -- are about 4 percent vacant.

He said he expects to provide expansion room in the new tower for many tenants now in the other buildings.

Highwoods Properties is a publicly held real-estate investment trust based in Raleigh, N.C. The company, which holds interests in 37 million square feet of office, retail and industrial properties in nine states, is one of Central Florida's largest owners of office space.

Jack Snyder can be reached at 407-420-5094 or jsnyder@orlandosentinel.com.

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.

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