|By Daphne Sashin, The Orlando Sentinel,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 17, 2007 - KISSIMMEE -- Rather than tear down the former Hyatt Orlando off Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 192, the owners will temporarily reopen the vacant hotel to generate income while they await approvals to transform the property into a much larger luxury resort.
The hotel is scheduled to open June 1 as Orlando Sun Resort by Lexington, with a $5 million makeover more than three years after the Hyatt closed. About half the 922 rooms will open initially, with the rest likely to open in September, at rates comparable to those at the Radisson next door.
The hotel could stay open at least two years while the New York-based Moinian brothers await land-use approvals, find investors and complete the designs for the planned Landmark Sun Resort & Spa.
"We think that while we are waiting for the approvals, we should generate some cash flow. We have a perfectly functional hotel, and we might as well take advantage of it," said Oskar Brecher, director of development for the Moinian Group. "While we were waiting, we saw that both the buildings and property were deteriorating. . . . We thought it would be better for all concerned to have the hotel operating."
It could be two years or more before the complex of two-story buildings is demolished. Work is projected to start as early as 2009.
When the two phases are complete, by 2016, the resort will feature two or three luxury hotel brands with as many as 3,460 rooms, a spa and a water park, according to the developers.
The owners in January submitted the development application to the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, whose multi-agency review could continue through early 2008. After the council holds a public hearing on the project, the Osceola County Commission must then grant its approval. Then the developer must finalize construction plans and secure building permits.
So far, the developers have spent $60 million, including $30 million to buy the property at auction in 2004, renovation work and about $5 million a year in taxes, Morris Moinian said.
To generate income while they wait for approvals, the Moinians spent about $5 million to spruce up the 77-acre property, including at least $750,000 in landscaping. They coated the buildings in different shades of orange paint, redid the vinyl in the swimming pools, planted 120 palm trees and replaced the sod, said Bill Parker, vice president of operations for Senate Hospitality Group, the company hired to manage the hotel.
In the guest rooms, the owners had the furniture replaced or refinished, and the linens, curtains and bedspreads were switched out. Each room will have free wireless Internet service.
The Hyatt, which opened in 1972, was long considered the premier hotel in Osceola. But after the 2001 economic slump, the aging two-story complex could no longer compete with newer hotels and was forced to close in 2003.
Kissimmee tourism boosters welcome the hotel's re-entry to the market, because of its size and location. With 60,000 square feet of meeting space, the Orlando Sun Resort will be the county's third-largest meeting venue, behind the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center and the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate.
The hotel's reopening should generate more than 300 jobs, a spokeswoman for The Lexington Collection said.
Daphne Sashin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-931-5944.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.
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