|By Sara K. Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 06, 2011--The development company behind the I-Drive Live project has more land to play with along a high-profile stretch of International Drive.
Unicorp National Developments Inc., which said it is moving forward with plans to build a $100 million entertainment complex on the former Mercado property south of Sand Lake Road, recently purchased a 42-acre hotel nearby on the southeast corner of Sand Lake and I-Drive. The acquisition, combined with the company's existing land holdings, gives it more than 70 acres of nearly contiguous land along Orlando's tourist strip.
Unicorp owner Chuck Whittall said Monday that the company and its affiliates paid $32.5 million for the sprawling Wyndham Orlando Resort. The low-rise hotel includes 16 guest buildings with 1,052 rooms and about 52,500 square feet of meeting space.
According to property records, I Shops LLC closed on the deal Dec. 1. In addition to Whittall, I Shops' managers include Paul Kanavos of Circle Entertainment, which is a partner of Unicorp's in the I-Drive Live project.
Whittall said the group hasn't settled on what it plans to do with the hotel property. Among the possibilities are remodeling the existing hotel, building new hotel towers on the site, or adding retail to the property. For now, he said, the company will operate the hotel "indefinitely."
"We're looking at all the options," Whittall said. "We just think all the properties tied together, it makes a lot of sense to control all that. We're going to reshape the face of I-Drive."
South of the Wyndham, Unicorp already owns the Gooding's Plaza, which abuts the future home of "I-Drive Live." The entertainment complex is slated to include a giant observation wheel, a Madame Tussauds' wax museum and a Sea Life aquarium, in addition to retail space, restaurants and hotels.
In the Wyndham transaction, CB Richard Ellis Inc. represented the seller of the hotel, the Teachers Retirement System of the State of Illinois. According to property records, the pension fund paid $53.2 million for the hotel in 1988.
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