I-drive hotel owner scoops up disney-area inn, eyes multifamily, retail

I-drive hotel owner scoops up disney-area inn, eyes multifamily, retail

Ben Mallah, principal and founder of Largo-based Equity Management Partner, is building a portfolio of hotels in Orlando — and he has his sights set on other forms of real estate, as well. His latest acquisition, the 308-room Courtyard Orlando Lake Buena Vista at Vista Centre at 8501 Palm Parkway for $21 million, closed on Feb. 2 and adds to two other hotels his firm owns on International Drive. Florida/Vista Ltd. and related partnership entities were the hotel sellers. Mallah told Orlando Business Journal he plans to invest $3 million in renovations at the Courtyard hotel in aesthetic and infrastructure improvements that are meant to bring it up to date. “I’m bringing up to more of today’s standards. It’s in a good area with close connections to Disney, but it is just a older property that needs some sprucing up to compete with today’s market,” he said.

The Courtyard’s renovation will join Mallah’s renovations of the 301-room Four Points by Sheraton Orlando International Drive(a $4 million renovation) and the 176-room Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando(a $2 million renovation). He said he plans to finish all the renovations by this year. He said those two renovations are still ongoing, but the Four Points work has slowed down due to last year’s merger of Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “We are trying to get through that transition as Marriott has a different way of doing things,” he added. Mallah said he doesn’t have any plans to buy any more hotels as owning and renovating three hotels has him busy. However, he said multifamily and retail opportunities are now grabbing his attention. “We like multifamily anywhere as long as it makes sense. But the market is so high right now for that segment — prices are high and there’s not a lot of cushion” between purchasing and operating costs and what’s made back on properties. In addition, he said the Four Points property may be in line for a unique retail component for a 5,000- square-foot elaborate fast-food restaurant that resembles the new McDonald’s build on the corner of I-Drive and Sand Lake Road. “We are looking to do retail on the corner there.

I have some ideas, but I have to see the demand. For example, we may look at something similar to the [I-Drive] McDonald’s that has food below and a big playground for kids on thesecond floor. Something like that would be nice,” he said. In addition, he said he may also break up the 5,000-square-foot plan into five, 1,000-square-foot parcels that could be used to accommodate smaller tenants. The Orlando hotel market has heated up each year thanks to increased visitation and a continued investment by local attractions and theme parks. The market is expected to continue to grow as long as visitation numbers remain strong.

Richard Bilbao

Reporter Orlando Business Journal

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