PEABODY ORLANDO PLOTS EXPANSION
Sometimes the best thing is to be a big fish in a small pond. That's been the Peabody Orlando's position for most of the past 20 years as it sat directly across the street from the fast-growing Orange County Convention Center. But as competition heats up at the high end of the Orlando lodging market (chiefly the opening in 2003 of Marriott's 1,500-room Grande Lakes complex that encompasses both a JW Marriott and a Ritz-Carlton), the Peabody feels the need to expand to maintain its preeminent market position.
“It took great insight for our owners (the Memphis-based Belz family) to build this hotel,” says Alan Villaverde, executive VP and GM of the Peabody Orlando. “At the time, the convention center wasn't very big and Orlando wasn't the top-tier convention destination that it is today.”
Villaverde and the hotel's ownership have been working for several years to execute an expansion of the property that will add 750 rooms and a whopping 153,000 square feet of function space to the hotel's current inventory of 891 guestrooms and 57,000 square feet of meeting space. Other planned enhancements include a 2,800-space parking garage, a new lobby, 15,000-square-foot spa, additional f&b outlets and retail space.
“It's definitely time for us to grow,” says Villaverde. “When we opened we had the most function space of any hotel in Orlando. Today, we rank number 18.”
A number of factors — increasing construction costs is the biggest — have kept the project on the drawing board for several years. Now, after several rounds of value engineering and the hiring of a new general contractor, Villaverde believes the project is about ready to get off the ground. Groundbreaking is tentatively set for next month, with partial opening by January 2009.
Villaverde sees opportunity in the Peabody Orlando's position as part of a small chain (the other Peabodys are in Memphis and Little Rock). “As a group, we've gained a reputation that exceeds our inventory or rooms and properties,” he says. “All three of us are big fish in relatively small ponds.”
He also cites the owners' devotion to standards as another competitive advantage. “Even through difficult periods, they always choose to maintain our high standards,” says Villaverde. “We also benefit from being part of a private company in that we don't need to worry about quarterly earnings reports and the corporate BS that's common in public companies.
“On the other hand, we're very nimble and aggressive in our marketing. We treat every piece of business as though it is our last.”
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