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The 1,000-room Expansion for Peabody Orlando
May be Back on Track

The Orlando Sentinel, Fla., Susan Strother Clarke Column

By Susan Strother Clarke, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Jan. 30, 2004 - Looks like those long-awaited plans to expand the Peabody hotel may be back on track. 

That doesn't mean you'll find GM Alan Villaverde at the controls of a backhoe, ready to break ground. 

But Villaverde confirmed this week that the design of a new, 1,000-room tower and more convention space should be completed this year -- and, barring anything unforeseen, construction will start in the first or second quarter of 2005. 

That's good news. This I-Drive project has been delayed for nearly three years because of the 2001 recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- and the withering effect that both had on bankers' willingness to get involved with tourism projects. 

Now, Villaverde said, lenders "are looking far more optimistically at investing money in Orlando than they have been in the past 24 months." 

That means heads could be hitting pillows in the new rooms by late 2007 or early 2008. 

Villaverde is still very cautious about all this -- and if there's another economic meltdown, all bets are off. 

Still, if things move forward at the Peabody, could the Hilton and Hyatt projects -- also planned for sites near the Orange County Convention Center -- be far behind? 

Susan Strother Clarke can be reached at or 407-420-5414. 

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(c) 2004. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. ABS, RANKY, RNK, CCU, 


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