WINTER GARDEN — Traffic whizzed by on State Road 50, and a loader buzzed between a pile of motel items turned to rubbish and a large waste receptacle.
Meanwhile, in the middle of that commotion, Winter Garden officials met Intram Realty heads the morning of Aug. 21 at the former office of the Exclusive Inn near the intersection with Dillard Street, marking the destruction phase start by demolishing it.
District 1 Winter Garden Commissioner Kent Makin began the destruction with a large excavator pounding through the roof before a Pece of Mind construction worker finished reducing the small building to rubble. City and Intram officials took turns bashing the ruins with sledgehammers, as well.
“It’s great opportunity — this motel’s been in pretty bad shape for quite a while,” City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said. “Now we’re going to tear it down, put in a Wawa and a couple of restaurants, and we’re working very hard to put a high-class new hotel in here. We’re really excited.”
Rashid Khatib, president and CEO of Intram Realty, said he hoped the opening of the first business on the property would occur within a few months.
“We have more businesses than we can handle,” Khatib said. “But the confirmed one’s a Culver’s, which is a fast, casual restaurant, at the end over there, near Maryland (Fried) Chicken. Then we have two restaurants in the middle. I’m not sure which we will choose. And then we have medical facilities in the back.”
Khatib said buying a charity building — gesturing in the direction of Edgewood Ranch Thrift Shop — was a possibility, with the idea of turning it into a high-end farmers’ market. He said it would take some more time to determine the best mix of all of the other businesses interested in being a part of the plaza.
Bollhoefer offered the Intram and Wawa officials a bit of history and trivia about the Exclusive Inn before they called it a day.
“This place here is kind of an icon; even as crappy as it is, it’s been here a long time, the only place to stay for many years,” Bollhoefer said. “When (Mayor John Rees) had his wedding reception here, it was the best place in town. It’s about 20 years past its useful life.”
Bollhoefer said redoing Dillard Street would be another project for the city to handle soon, including the installation of landscape medians.
“It’s going to be similar to (downtown),” he said. “It won’t be the same — it’ll be transitional downtown — but it’ll look good. Business by business, we’ll clean it up.”
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].