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The Evolution of the Tourist Experience | The Grove Resort & Spa

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By: Jack Roth

The Grove Resort & Spa in Orlando represents a unique real estate investment opportunity, allowing people to own a vacation rental property in one of the world’s premiere vacation destinations.

The Grove Resort & Spa is an expansive 115-acre hotel destination located just minutes from the Western Way entrance of Walt Disney World. Set on Lake Austin and amid a portion of Central Florida’s conservation grounds, the Grove Resort & Spa brings a new type of vacation destination (a vacation home resort) to the region.

It represents a real estate investment opportunity, where owners can stay at their residence while on vacation or have the option to place it into the rental program. The 878-unit condo/hotel is being developed by Grove Resort & Spa and managed by BTI Partners. Benchmark Hospitality International manages the vacation home resort and rental program as part of its signature Benchmark Resorts & Hotels portfolio.

“It’s a traditional condo/hotel offering but completely unique to this market,” said Kevin Mays, director of development and construction for BTI Partners. “It provides total flexibility for the owner, who can enjoy the property and its amenities when in town but can rent it out as needed.”

Originally, the development was named Grande Palisades, which was completed in 2008. All units were pre-sold, but before the sales were completed, the real estate market crashed. Ultimately, the owners defaulted and the development reverted to the bank, which spent millions of dollars to maintain the asset in good condition. In 2014, BTI Partners bought the construction loan from the bank and embarked on an exhaustive renovation and upgrade, spending over $100 million to make the property Orlando’s premier resort-style condo hotel.

“It’s a three-phase project,” explained Mays. “We’ve already renovated 184 of the 878 units, so we have a lot more growth underway. We’ve also been adding all the hospitality components; all told it will be a three-year renovation and upgrade process that should be completed in late 2019.”

Mays stressed that the resort’s services and amenities far surpass typical condos, and this is where the hotel/resort spa aspect comes into play. From a tourism perspective, he added, this concept competes very well with any resort, and from an ownership standpoint, it represents much more of

an investment plus an incredible amount of flexibility. He concluded that from a hospitality standpoint, they definitely checked that box, too.

“We have a giant vacation home market here, which is an anomaly unique to our region,” he said. “We offer ourselves as a great alternative to actually buying a vacation home.”

Location, Location, Location

The 2.1 million square foot development is located just three miles from the Western Way entrance of Walt Disney World Resort, offering convenient access to Orlando’s prime entertainment locales and iconic parks, including the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando. It is also conveniently located among the area’s myriad of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

“Benchmark markets through broker networks in several countries around the world, so people are aware they can rent these condos to enjoy this great vacation destination,” said Mays. “We conducted a lot of research and talked to the local broker community to find out what buyers were looking for when it came to amenities, services and operations.”

Bill Lee, general manager of the hospitality operation at the property, said The Grove Resort & Spa represents the new growth just west of Walt Disney World. “This previously underdeveloped area is blossoming into what will be a new district of entertainment, accommodations and recreation for the nearly 70 million people who visit Orlando annually,” he said. “It’s an exciting moment for us to be the first destination resort to usher in that new era.”

First-Class Accommodations and Amenities

Renovated suite floor plans include generously-sized two and three bedroom accommodations, ranging between 1,264 square feet and 1,544 square feet with private bedrooms and bathrooms, living and dining areas, full kitchens, screened balconies, and full-size washers and dryers. Ideal for families, multigenerational gatherings, as well as corporate and social groups, the suites are designed to be a home away from home while on vacation.

The “resort and spa” aspects of the property make it truly unique, with a line-up of outdoor activities that are a focal point of the guest experience. Opening in March 2018, Surfari Water Park will feature the first dual-rider surf simulator at any Orlando hotel, an interactive water structure with multiple slides, more than 725 feet of lazy river, and nearby lounge chairs and umbrellas. A trio of pools, known as The Springs, provides additional areas for water play, as well as an adult-only pool. Covered cabanas can be found next to Lake Austin, the launching point for a variety of watersports, paddleboats, and fishing.

Escape Spa offers a full-service menu inclusive of body and facial treatments, manicures, and pedicures; and a 2,000-square-foot fitness center houses cardiovascular and strength training equipment.

As far as food goes, Alfresco Market presents a selection of hot and cold self-serve food, gelato and local ice cream, a barista bar, a deli with fresh-cut Boar’s Head meats and made-to-order sandwiches, as well as grocery-style items for stocking the in-room kitchen. The resort will also be home to Valencia, which serves Italian, Spanish, and French-inspired dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Springs Bar & Grill, located at The Springs, serving traditional, in-season, locally-grown bites. Additional bar options include Zest lobby bar and Element lounge. In March 2018, Longboard Bar & Grill, located at Surfari Water Park, will open and feature craft beers on draft, burgers and more.

A Condo Like No Other

As a condo hotel, The Grove Resort & Spa offers various services, including 24-hour security, multi-lingual hotel concierge, valet, doorman, front desk, in-room or poolside massage, poolside services, daily housekeeping and a daycare facility.

“Having Benchmark on property has been hugely critical to asset maintenance, condo services, amenity management and the rental program,” said Mays. “We love the fact we’re a unique alternative for those who want to enjoy what the region has to offer and also take advantage of an ownership opportunity.”

Mays said there have been a lot of international purchasers in the property, which is great for tourism. “We believe we’re helping expand and enhance the perception of our area as a tourist destination. The truth is, this is a great place for both domestic and international visitors and owners, and this endeavor provides opportunities for both.”