Monday, September 24, 2018

One of Orlando's biggest developers is building a 'mini-theme park' on I-Drive

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2018 at 11:02 AM

click to enlarge gal_foodstock_-_orlando_eye.jpg
Unicorp, the development company behind ICON Orlando 360 (previously known as I-Drive 360), has been slowly moving forward with their transformation of the nearly 14-acre block that stretches from Sand Lake Road to Via Mercado along International Drive and Universal Boulevard.

After looking at the possibility of residential units and other less tourism-focused projects for this area, Unicorp founder and CEO Chuck Whittall has announced a slew of new attractions for the ICON Orlando 360 block that also includes The Vue at 360 plaza, I-Shops, and a Wyndham hotel.

The Wyndham will replace many of the dated stand-alone two-story buildings with two new hotel towers that will have a combined 800 rooms.

It’s unclear how many of the current 613 rooms at the resort will be replaced by the new towers, but previous plans called for all existing rooms to be demolished to make way for new projects. The hotel will also more than triple the size of its current meeting space.



On top of the 800 rooms at the Wyndham, another 165 rooms will be added to the complex thanks to a new Element by Westin hotel, which will replace the closed McFadden's Irish bar. The modern looking Element hotel will blend in well with the sleek look of ICON Orlando 360, while also adding more interest to the back side of the development along Universal Boulevard that tends to be much quieter than the I-Drive side.

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA UNICORP DEVELOPMENT
  • Photo via Unicorp Development
Next to the new Element hotel, Whittall has scraped his previously announced plans for apartments, instead going with attractions designed to draw even more tourists to the complex, likely inspired in part by the runaway success of the Orlando Starflyer. That swing ride, the world’s tallest of its type, has regularly seen long lines and extended hours since opening in June.

Now Whittall wants to cash in on the thrill-seeking tourists flocking to the Starflyer with the world’s tallest drop ride in the parking lot behind the observation wheel. On the opposite side of the retail complex, the world’s tallest slingshot ride will also be constructed. The dual slingshot attraction will be as tall or taller than the current world’s tallest found just up the street at Magical Midway.

A powered zip-line and various other previously planned attractions are also still in the works despite the county denying a heliport that was slated for the top level of the parking garage.

Whittall announced these new plans for the development just days after Ryman Hospitality (owners of Kissimmee's Gaylord Palms resort) and Blake Shelton confirmed a new $15 million dining venue at ICON Orlando 360. The country-themed dining and live entertainment venue will be the fourth Ole Red establishment, which is based on one of Shelton’s most famous songs. The two-story, 15,000-sq. ft. establishment will seat 500 diners and will have an Orlando inspired custom menu. Tin Roof, a similarly focused dining venue already opened at ICON Orlando 360, has seen some of the best success of any dining venue in the entire complex. Despite its location in the heart of I-Drive, Tin Roof has proven to be a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.

In an interview with the Orlando Business Journal, Whittall described the additions to ICON Orlando 360 as a “mini-theme park.

Nearby, even more thrill rides are planned at the much anticipated Skyplex development by local business owner Joshua Wallack, best known for his pair of Mango’s clubs and the new Hollywood Plaza that will soon open along International Drive.

Construction on the additions to ICON Orlando 360 will break ground in 2019, with phased openings beginning in 2020. Ole Red Orlando will be among the first things to open. Whittall is also bringing even more unique experiences and dining venues to Central Florida with his nearby massive billion dollar I-4 flanked O-Town West mixed-use development, which is also expected to open around mid-2020.

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