Hotel could address need
A new boutique hotel is about to check in to Winter Park, filling a vacancy that city staff says has been driving potential visitors away.
Winter Park City Commissioners gave preliminary approval for a 70,000-square-foot, 120-room hotel on Monday night, set for the northwest corner at the intersection of Morse Boulevard and Pennsylvania Avenue where an office building exists today.
The proposed project will include a restaurant, a meeting space and a swimming pool, using an existing three-story parking garage nearby.
It’s a development that Winter Park Director of Planning and Community Development Dori Stone said helps the city with an issue it’s had for years: a lack of hotels.
As of today the Park Plaza Hotel and the Alfond Inn are the only hotels near Winter Park’s central core. The Mt. Vernon Inn welcomed visitors to Winter Park for 66 years at its location along U.S. 17-92 before the property was sold and the building was torn down last summer.
“We had access to a study that was done in the early 2000s that showed that we were somewhere between 275 to 335 rooms short based on the needs of events and travelers and venues and things like that,” Stone said.
“We are hotel-short. We lose a lot of our visitors to Maitland, to Orlando, along the I-4 corridor and downtown Orlando because there aren’t enough rooms in Winter Park.”
But Winter Park resident Lurlene Fletcher said the new hotel is merely another piece of the west side of the city being chipped way by gentrification. The community to the west of the train tracks – historically a lower-income, African American community – continues to see more and more upscale development.
“Every time the west side comes up, you always have a new [project] for it,” Fletcher said. “Resident neighborhoods are supposed to be for resident neighborhoods.”
“I don’t think its fair to the residents that you’re going to put a hotel on Pennsylvania in the residential neighborhood.”
But Stone said the location is perfect for a hotel, clarifying that there are no homes immediately abutting the property where the hotel would sit.
“I think it’s a good place for a hotel, right on Morse Boulevard – a corridor that comes into Winter Park,” Stone said. “When you look at the Alfond that’s kind of tucked away off of New England, I think we can handle that. I think the scale is small enough with two to three stories that it will fit nicely there. I think the employment opportunities are good too.”
The hotel project will go before the City Commission for final approval on zoning changes in the coming weeks.