A long-planned hotel complex along Bali Boulevard in Southwest Orange County will be the first in the region to feature a public access Crystal Lagoon amenity under the new development agreement signed by the company with ADËLON Capital.
ADËLON, previously known as AD1 Global, has been planning the hotel trio just off U.S. 192 since 2016, and it has always included a shared water amenity with a beach. Co-chairs Jonathan Cohen and Daniel Berman told GrowthSpotter the development team is repackaging the concept include a larger swimming lagoon utilizing the technology first invented in Chile and introduced to the U.S. in 2014.
Cohen said the firm has a deal with Crystal Lagoons USA to build at least five lagoons in the next 10 years. Each would be attached to a hotel, residential or mixed-use development but also will offer access to the public via the purchase of daily passes.
The initial plans for the 57-acre project called for three, seven-story hotels with flags from IHG and Marriott International. Those include a 122-room Staybridge Suites, a 151-room Holiday Inn Express and a 145-room Four Points by Sheraton hotel. Cohen said the hotels will open in conjunction with the public access lagoon by late 2023 and will be operated by AD1 Management.
Cohen said ADËLON is in due diligence for the other sites. One will be Orange County near the University of Central Florida, another is slated for northwest Lake County “near The Villages.” Two others are planned in Sanford and in Osceola County, he said.
“The goal is, Orlando has everything but one thing — beaches,” Berman said. “We’re going to bring the beaches to Orlando so people don’t have to drive two hours away.”
While these are the first public access lagoons planned for Central Florida, they won’t be the first to be built in the region.
The development team behind the $1 billion Evermore Resort Orlando has designed the project around a Crystal Lagoon. David Pace, Florida division president for Dart Interests, first confirmed the plans in 2020 — even before the unveiling of the Evermore master plan early this year.
The 1,100-acre resort next to Disney features a 433-room Conrad Orlando hotel accompanied by a series of luxury vacation home rentals surrounding the beach and redesigned Nicklaus golf course. This past April, the company submitted a Development Plan to Orange County for the swimming lagoon and beach amenities. Pace said he expects to begin construction in about two months, and he anticipates it will take about 14 to complete.
“It’s really two projects,” he said. “There’s the lagoon, which is the technical body of water … and then the perimeter of the lagoon which takes it from the body of water that we’re building is 8 acres, and the perimeter of it would bring it up to almost 25 acres. That’s where you have the palm groves and the cabanas, pathways and all the sort of enrichments that go around the lagoon to make it a fun place to be.”
The lagoon should be finished by March 2023, about three months before the opening of the resort, tentatively planned for June.
“We’re going to open everything at the same time,” Pace said. “So we don’t want any guests coming out here and not having the full resort available to them so all the pools all the amenities all the restaurants. We want everything to be open when we have our grand opening.”
Pace said the Crystal Lagoon at Evermore Orlando Resort will private and restricted to resort guests. “We are not one of the daily fee lagoons. They will have to stay here to use the facilities.”
Tampa-based Metro Development Group opened the first U.S.-based Crystal Lagoon in its Epperson Ranch master-planned community in 2017 and has three more in the works. For the last five years, Central Floridians have been waiting for the first Crystal Lagoon to be developed in the region.
In 2016, Westgate Resorts filed civil plans for a Crystal Lagoon as part of an expansion of its Westgate Town Center Resort & Spa in Kissimmee but never followed through on the project.
“It’s a very expensive amenity, and we’re trying to decide whether it makes sense to move forward - especially since we just opened our new water park,” Westgate COO Mark Waltrip said at the time.
Tavistock Development Company announced plans for a Crystal Lagoon adjacent to the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona around that same time. The 5-acre lagoon was slated to be part of the Lake Nona Resort and adjacent to its planned 389-room hotel and conference center. Tavistock Vice President Jessi Blakely told GrowthSpotter the company is still in discussions with Crystal Lagoons USA regarding the project and whether the amenity will be included. The entire Lake Nona Resort project has been put on the back burner while the company focuses on opening its Wave Hotel in the Lake Nona Town Center.
“We’re reimagining plans for the Lake Nona Resort and Golf & Country Club expansion and timelines have not yet been determined,” Blakely said.