The possibility of a hotel coming to downtown Winter Garden drew many residents into the Winter Garden commission chambers during the Aug. 23 commission meeting.
After hearing from some of those residents, city leaders voted unanimously to move forward with exploring the opportunity of building a hotel in downtown Winter Garden at 8 N. Highland Ave. City Manager Mike Bollhoefer emphasized this is just the beginning of the process and that the developer will still have meet certain criteria for the proposed hotel.
“This meeting tonight is not to talk about approval to approve a hotel,” Bollhoefer said “We’re nowhere close to that.”
He later added this is just the beginning of a long process, which includes community meetings at later dates.
Bollhoefer said one of the reasons the developers chose the city is because they have ties to Winter Garden. He added the developer will be having designers and planners visit the area and design the hotel to match the character of downtown.
“They design it to be part of the community,” Bollhoefer said. “The reason they chose this site is (because) … their design and their style of hotel fits in the middle of the city. That’s why they chose this site as opposed to other areas.”
Although he supports building more hotels in the city, Mayor John Rees said he would prefer the hotel be built elsewhere.
“I think I said last meeting this is not the first site I would pick (for a hotel),” Rees said. “There’s a couple of other sites … but having said that, I think for years, we’ve needed a hotel in Winter Garden.”
Michael Lanza is the owner of the Edgewater Hotel. He said he is concerned over the proposed hotel’s potential impact to the downtown’s historic identity.
“The impact of the historic district of the proposed building — that’s our concern,” Lanza said. “A major concern that we have is losing the identity of the historic district in all of the new construction. … Overall, we don’t want to see us possibly lose our federal designation as a historic and our historic identity in the process.”
Wes Catlett-Miller is a member of the board of directors for the Garden Theatre. He spoke in support of the proposed hotel because it poses an opportunity to increase tourism, which would bring more money to local businesses.
“I’ve seen the economic impact that the people and the tourism that comes into Plant Street brings to the town,” Catlett-Miller said. “When I look at a boutique hotel opening up … I see economic impact.”
During the Aug. 9 meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to allow city staff to draft a letter of intent expressing interest in the possibility a building a boutique hotel at 8 N. Highland Ave. The city currently owns the building at the proposed site. The city also would have contributed $15,000 toward design costs. City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said staff will no longer be drafting the letter or contributing the money for design costs. The action taken by the commission at the Aug. 23 meeting replaces the action take at the Aug. 9 meeting.
“This hotel would generate for downtown $3.8 million in benefits … from additional revenues,” Bollhoefer said.
A representative speaking on behalf of the developers said they do not wish to comment on the project at this time because it is “still in its infancy.”