Reasons to renovate: Hurricane damage; new ownership; brand relaunch; refocused importance on meeting space
With a design objective of creating a welcoming guest experience, VOA Associates’ Orlando, Fla., office completed a total exterior and interior renovation of the Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista Downtown in the Walt Disney World Resort. The nearly $25 million project was completed in April 2010.
VOA Associates began working on the aging hotel in the summer of 2004 under a previous owner. What started out as a straightforward rooms’ update escalated to a much broader scale when the property sustained significant hurricane damage later that year. The hotel underwent a series of intermittent renovations, but the current owners, who took over in 2008, were fully committed to a comprehensive renovation that would totally recycle the structure.
“If the structure is sound and the location is right, it’s probably more economical to try to renovate and reposition as opposed to demolish and start over,” says Jonathan Douglas, managing principal for VOA Associates in Orlando. “There are always environmental benefits from that approach—reusing what we have and conserving our resources.”
Building code enforcement became paramount during the revitalization process. “The scope expanded exponentially,” Douglas says, “but not so far that it wasn’t still a viable project.”
The property’s new design provides an overall more contemporary look and feel that is aligned with Holiday Inn’s $1 billion global brand relaunch. “That was important to the owners,” Douglas says. “The want to have a good relationship with the brand as an owner.” With the hotel’s proximity to Disney World, the owners knew the property had the potential to be more profitable than it had been historically, and improved revenue would allow them to drive the new brand concept.
Douglas says VOA Associates started with the guest experience narrative and visual standpoint, then looked at the programmatic goals that helped support that experience. After a comprehensive survey to understand what the physical character of the project would be, they aligned it with the budget and schedule.
The lack of a well-defined public entry posed an initial challenge. Re-occurring architectural elements now lend direction and a sense of procession to the main entrance. “One of the keys of a project like this is a focused guest eye at the ground level,” Douglas says. The new porte-cochere welcomes guests upon arrival to the hotel, and a palette of aluminum and composite metals establishes a modern departure from the hotel’s former stucco masonry.
Reorganization of the entry experience also involved relocating the pool to improve its visibility, and moving the restaurant so it was accessible from within the hotel, not just from the exterior. “In a way the hurricanes weren’t an obstacle for us so much as an opportunity,” says Daryl Le Blanc, associate principal for VOA Associates and design director on the project. “We got to do things we wouldn’t have done otherwise.”
In its original format, the facility lacked the space to accommodate large groups for meetings and events. To update the hotel and render it more competitive in a heavily tourist-driven market, the hotel’s needs were re-assessed, giving rise to a refocused importance on meeting space as a source of increased revenue and guest service. The redesign speaks to this need by adding a new conference center that includes pre-function, dedicated meeting rooms, and a gallery area.
A successful team effort revitalized the facility as a sustainable entry to the marketplace and extended the life of a hotel that was nearly abandoned.
“The timing was pretty good,” Douglas says of the project. “They were able to open in a market where not a lot of new properties were coming on. As a result, they had a really nice positioning strategy when they opened up.”
More on Design & Construction: Read about design concepts with local influence and guestroom bedding trends in the May issue of Lodging.