Largo-based real estate owner scoops up I-Drive hotel property, plans upgrades

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Largo-based real estate owner scoops up I-Drive hotel property, plans upgrades

The 176-room Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando now is owned by Largo-based Equity Management Partners, the same firm that acquired the I-Drive Four Points by Sheraton Orlando Studio City in January. And the new owners plan to invest millions into new renovations.

The hotel was bought in an auction on Oct. 6 for $9.25 million after two days on bid — the hotel’s owner was Miami Beach-based LNR Partners LLC. The hotel, at 7975 Canada Ave. across the street from the future Skyplex project, is an extended-stay property that boasts in-room kitchens and separate living areas and bedrooms.

Buying the hotel was another strategic asset grab along the blossoming International Drive corridor, which is seeing investments from Universal Orlando Resort and the Skyplex project, said Ben Mallah, principal and founder of Equity Management Partners. “We are investing in that area. Universal has all kinds of goals for that area and that helped make the property unique to us,” he told Orlando Business Journal.

Mallah said the sale has not closed officially yet, but that is expected to happen within the next 60 days. When that happens, he said he will begin a $2 million aesthetic renovation of the property, upgrading the paint, landscape and amenities on property.

This is another renovation project his company will take on as it also invested $4 million in upgrades to the Four Points Sheraton hotel earlier this year that included many of the same changes he intends for the Hawthorn Suites.

Auction brochures for the Hawthorn Suites show it has a 69.61 percent occupancy, which is fairly good for I-Drive hotels. Most properties like to be in the 70s to low 80s in occupancy as it allows them to maintain a normal flow of sales, but with the room to adjust room rates to increase profits.

The property was represented by Paul Sexton and Scott Stephens of HREC Investment Advisors in Orlando.

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