In spite of Universal Orlando’s strong lobbying efforts, the Orange County Commission unanimously voted to approve the $460 million proposed Skyplex development on International Drive.
Skyplex developer Joshua Wallack’s proposal includes a plan for the world’s tallest roller coaster at 501 feet, a 450-foot Skyfall drop tower, a surf park, the world’s largest Perkins Restaurant and a 350-room hotel.
“What we intend to build is a renaissance,” Wallack says. “Skyplex has the critical mass to bring people in and create thousands of jobs.”
The Skyscraper on the site was originally proposed to be 700 feet, but at Tuesday’s commission meeting, Skyplex attorney Hal Kantor says the tower would not surpass 600 feet.
After a county Planning and Zoning Board meeting where Universal said the project was incompatible with the size and scope of International Drive, a group affiliated with the theme park sent out anti-Skyplex mailers
to Orange County residents and created a website against the project, citing height, noise, traffic and light pollution concerns.
Numerous business owners and residents who spoke in favor of the project say north I-Drive is “tired” and a “depressed” area that should be as vibrant as south I-Drive. Several times, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs pointed out that north I-Drive is under the city of Orlando’s jurisdiction.
Universal sent two representatives to the meeting, including Universal head of external affairs John McReynolds. Universal’s issues with Skyplex are not about competition with the project, he says.
“We compete on a global scale, not with the businesses on I-Drive,” he says. “What I am here about is community...Why are we abandoning the vision for south Orange County for one project?”
Although three county residents spoke against the project, Sam Butler brought with him 250 petitions in support of Skyplex from his neighborhood, Tangelo Park, which would be the closest residential area to the project.
“We’re going to have a complex over there that I’m told is going to have an excess of 3,700 jobs, and those jobs are going to be within walking distance of my community,” he says. “I don’t see anything but a win-win situation...There’s enough honey to go around for everybody.”