The influx of new development for Rollins College continued at the Tuesday, Feb. 5, Winter Park Planning and Zoning Board meeting — including the approval of phase two for the college’s premier hotel, The Alfond Inn.
The second phase — set to be constructed on top of the existing parking lot east of the building — would include 73 additional hotel rooms, a 12,000-square-foot spa/health club and 2,140 square feet of new meeting/gallery space.
Rollins College Chief Marketing and Community Relations Officer Sam Stark said the Alfond Inn has been well-received by the community since it opened in 2013 and that Rollins College would like to see it grow.
The expansion would further support the students at Rollins College in the form of scholarships from the Harold Alfond Foundation, Stark said. Net operating income from the Alfond Inn will be directed to the scholarship fund for the hotel’s first 25 years or until the endowment principal reaches $50 million.
More than 50 full scholarships have been awarded to incoming students.
“The Alfond Inn, on all accounts, I hope you would agree, has been a wonderful success for the region, for the community and certainly for Rollins College,” Stark said. “The expansion of the inn will help Rollins continue to offer the best and the brightest students from throughout the world the opportunity to attend through our Alfond scholars program. It just does tremendous things for the college and for our institution worldwide.”
It’s an expansion project meant to complement the existing features of the hotel, said Tim Baker, of architecture firm Baker Barrios, which designed the hotel’s first phase.
The additions would meet the growing demand for rooms within the hotel, but the project also would include more back-of-house space for the staff, Baker said.
A new dedicated car lane that runs between New England Avenue and the hotel building also would allow valet parking employees to drive into the on-site parking lot without clogging traffic in front of the hotel.
“Currently what is an issue on special events is the valet stacking, so in this particular solution, when we expand into the phase two Alfond, we’re looking to do a stacking lane that runs parallel to New England and allows us to stretch out that valet operational opportunity to get much more cars within the property and taking the pinch point off of New England, which will help with the flow of the valet service but also the bottlenecking at the existing drop-off entrance,” Baker said.
The architect also confirmed the expansion is self-contained and doesn’t encroach on the property of the Winter Park Public Library next door. As for the additional parking required for the expansion, the hotel plans to continue relying on the nearby SunTrust parking garage for its needs.
Residents spoke in overwhelming support of the project. Many locals said the only issue they have had with the existing hotel, at times, is finding available rooms.
“A hotel is doing pretty well in the 60% occupancy rate, and you all kind of stay up in the 94% occupancy rate year-round,” Winter Park Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert said. “I love my problems as chamber of commerce president, but we have a full hotel, and we really need to provide more opportunities.
“Clearly the chamber’s position on this would be to see this expansion approved,” she said. “We look forward to continuing our rigorous and hearty partnership with the Alfond Inn.”
“(The Alfond Inn) is simply a treasure — it’s a jewel,” resident Sigrid Tiedtke said. “It’s a brilliant piece of work on so many levels. … We fully support the expansion.”
The project for the Alfond Inn was approved unanimously and is set to go before the Winter Park City Commission Monday, Feb. 25.
GARAGE GETS APPROVAL
Rollins College also received P&Z approval of a new 784-space parking garage on its campus.
The new garage, set for the southwest corner of Fairbanks and Ollie avenues, would be built on top of an existing surface parking lot and result in 596 net new spaces on campus.
Winter Park Planning Manager Jeff Briggs said the new garage being on the south side of Fairbanks Avenue would potentially free up parking spaces in the existing SunTrust parking garage across the street, making room for the parking requirements for the Alfond Inn expansion and potentially other opportunities.