Peabody Orlando Expands Finally

After years of delay, the massive expansion of the Peabody Hotel in Orlando is under way. A late-February groundbreaking marked the launch of the multi-year project, which includes a new 30-story, 750-room guest tower, a 2,100-space parking garage, 145,000 square feet of meeting space, an additional pool, a new full-service spa and fitness center and five more food and beverage outlets. The 891-room hotel sits directly across the street from the main entrance to the Orange County Convention Center.

“As the convention center has expanded, so has the number of large citywide conventions,” says Alan Villaverde, executive vice president of Peabody Hotels and GM of the Orlando property. “We have the best location and typically serve as headquarters hotel for the groups in the center. While we needed additional facilities to handle that role, we also need more meeting space to accommodate in-house groups when there aren't citywides in town.”

The Peabody organization first explored an expansion more than 10 years ago. “We had a partner in the project until 2001,” says Marty Belz, president and chairman of the Peabody Hotel Group. “Then 9/11 happened, and the deal came apart. Since then, a number of factors — including inflation of construction costs — have delayed start of the project until now.”

The Peabody project is part of a larger public-private master plan for improvement of the 2,000-acre convention center district.

The plan, which will be funded mostly through private money, calls for the creation of an urban environment around the center. It will weave restaurants and hotels in the area through better pedestrian access and an improved transportation system. Long-term elements of the strategy will take up to 15 years to complete. The $400-million-plus Peabody project should be open by the end of 2010.

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