|By Jerry W. Jackson, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Oct. 8, 2005 - It has 421,500 pounds of granite. That's on top of the 68,500 cubic yards of concrete and 3,200 tons of reinforcing steel.
Inside it all will go 2.5 million pounds of furniture and artwork.
It's the massive Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, the Orlando area's only major hotel under construction.
Owner-developer Harris Rosen celebrated Friday with the traditional tree-topping ceremony to mark the completion of the superstructure, which rises 14 stories above Shingle Creek near the Orange County Convention Center.
Instead of an evergreen, the usual tree of choice, a crane lifted a palm tree to the top of the building in keeping with the tropical setting.
"It's not as easy as it looks," Rosen said of the Shingle Creek project, which opened its sales office in 2001 shortly before the 9-11 terrorist attacks sent the tourism industry reeling.
Next came the explosive growth of China and its economy, and with that heated competition for concrete and steel, driving up prices for projects worldwide. Then came last year's Florida hurricanes, which kept construction crews off balance and juggling work dates.
But Rosen, Orlando's largest independent hotelier, said Friday the multimillion-dollar project is "on track, as scheduled," for a Sept. 30, 2006, opening. "I tend to nudge them on occasion," Rosen said of the development team.
Orange County Convention Center Executive Director Tom Ackert said the resort is critical to the continued growth of the area's convention business, in part because, while there are plenty of condominiums and time shares under construction, it is the only major hotel under way.
"He has taken a risk," Ackert said of Rosen, who forged ahead with the 1,500-room luxury resort at a time when other hotel projects were put on hold because of travel fears.
Located on Universal Boulevard less than a mile from the convention center's new North-South complex, the resort will compete with, as well as complement, the convention center.
Plans call for 250,000 square feet of dedicated, state-of-the-art meeting space, including a 95,000-square-foot, column-free ballroom. That's large enough to host many major corporate events that might otherwise book a date in the county convention center.
Adjacent to the resort is the already-open Shingle Creek Golf Club. Nearby is the new campus of the University of Central Florida's Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
Both Ackert and Bill Peeper, president of the Orlando-Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Rosen deserves credit for gambling on continued growth of the region's business-meetings industry.
"He has stepped up to the plate over and over and put his money where his mouth is," Peeper said Friday as he looked across the construction site, pockmarked with puddles from a rare October rain.
Rosen said there are always challenges that "you have no control over," such as the weather, and he alluded to the threat of terrorism. "You can't control what people do around the world. That impacts us," he said.
But the mark of a champion, he said, is to rebound "after getting bumps on the head" during the heat of competition. "We will all be proud of this property," he said.
To see more of The Orlando Sentinel -- including its homes, jobs, cars and other classified listings -- or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.OrlandoSentinel.com.
Copyright (c) 2005, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.