Downtown Orlando’s latest hotel – and first to be constructed in more than a decade – is going for the gold. Utilizing the former Orlando Utilities Commission headquarters, just south of City Hall on Orange Avenue, instead of tearing it down was the first step. The 1968 building is now a National Historic Landmark with little to no changes on the exterior, but a host of updates and amenities on the inside that put it on pace to become Gold LEED Certified, the second highest designation for green building practices and still quite a rarity.
Ricardo Echeverri, director, sales and marketing; Stuart R. Newmark, CHA, executive Vice President and COO, Yedla Hotels; Christine Britt, catering and conference sales manager; and Craig Leicester, general manager.
“The ability to transform this historic building into something new and vibrant and bring something to downtown that’s been missing is very exciting,” says General Manager Craig Leicester. “The certification will be the icing on the cake.”
But that’s not the only gold this space is aiming for. The Aloft Orlando Downtown, opening September 26, plans to be tops with guests as well. “It’s really the spirit with which we will run the hotel,” says Stuart Newmark, CHA, executive vice president and COO, Yedla Hotels (the operating partner). “We made great choices in the team who all have a passion and mindset for exceeding expectations. It’s a vision we all share – making each guest feel special.”
He should know. He was responsible for doing much the same when he was opening general manager for the Grand Bohemian Hotel. But Aloft is a very different concept and brand. Part of the W Hotel side of the Starwood family, Aloft’s are known for being fresh, modern, fun and flowing with energy. And this one will feature some of the brand’s most prominent attractions: the w xyz bar, a no-walls, no limits space that’s always abuzz; re:fuel, a one-stop gourmet grab-and-go area with fresh fare; re:charge, a 24/7 re:charge fitness facility; and of course, all the latest technology throughout the hotel.
There are some features special to this hotel that incorporate the past. “It’s the new and old together. There are lots of architectural details in the meeting spaces that were prominent in the original building,” says Christine Britt, catering and conference sales manager. “In fact, the design team left the waffled ceilings and added spheres that hold the lighting.” Christine is most excited about the meeting space since it addresses a real need beautifully. “There are seven 350-square-foot board rooms with floor to ceiling windows configured on different floors.”
The big discovery with the building was below ground, though, as there was a full basement with high ceilings that had been used for storage. Now sculptural stairs lead from the main lobby down to the newly reconfigured meeting and event space, consisting of a total of 7,000 square feet, plus a pre-function area (1,619 sq. ft.), in three rooms. There’s even a nod to OUC in the names – Voltage Ex:change (1,000 S. Ft.), Solar Ex:change (2,600 sq. ft.) and Ion Ex:change (825 sq. ft.).
Even though the hotel will have a wide selection of room styles among its 118 total – from standard two-queen to king conference suites – it’s not all about the interiors. Splash, the pool, and a large patio lounge will sit side by side right outside on Orange Avenue and are sure to attract lots of attention. There is not an on-site restaurant, but it may be a good thing as the Aloft team will be partnering with local restaurants to provide delivered meals to guests, and there is also a full cadre of catering menus for special events.
“As an Orlando native I am excited about what’s going on downtown and about the fact that we are offering something new for locals and business travelers,” adds Ricardo Echeverri, director, sales and marketing. It should be quite the scene for get-togethers and after-work cocktails. The Mega-Watt Margarita will be right in step with the urban vibe set in the historic site.
Aloft Orlando Downtown
500 S. Orange Ave.