Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts said Tuesday it has secured financing for a $360 million luxury resort at Walt Disney World and will begin construction of the long-planned project in December.
The 444-room hotel, which will include a rooftop restaurant with views of the Magic Kingdom and a "lazy river" water feature, among other amenities, is expected to open in mid- or late 2014. The project will also include as many as 40 Four Seasons time-share units and up to 90 Four Seasons private residences.
Four Seasons will hold a 30 percent stake in the project, with the remaining equity split between Silverstein Properties, a New York real-estate developer, and Dune Real Estate Partners, a New York private-equity fund. Grupo Financiero Inbursa, a Mexico City-based bank, will provide $190 million in debt financing.
"This is something that we've been very excited about for a long time, so this is exciting for us to get to this milestone," said Scott Woroch, Four Seasons' executive vice president of worldwide development. "And we're very enthusiastic about being on the cusp of getting shovels into the ground."
Toronto-based Four Seasons bought the land for the hotel from Disney World in August 2008 for approximately $51 million, according to property records. The land, in the northeast portion of Disney World, includes Disney's Osprey Ridge golf course, which will be incorporated into the resort.
Officials initially hoped to open the resort by last year, but the project was slowed by the global recession and credit crunch.
"When we first went into the market and started talking about this in '08, there was no market. No one wanted to talk to us," said Larry Silverstein, chief executive of Silverstein Properties, which secured the construction loan and oversaw master planning, among other responsibilities. "It got a little better in '09 and it got a lot better in '10."
Silverstein estimated that 2,000 construction workers would be hired to work on the project. Four Seasons says it expects to employ "several hundred" workers to staff the hotel along with its restaurants, spa and other facilities.
It was Disney that first approached Four Seasons about buying the land. Disney is banking on Four Seasons, one of the most prestigious brands in the lodging industry, to provide an enticing amenity for buyers in "Golden Oak," a residential subdivision of multimillion-dollar homes that Disney is developing in the same area. About a dozen Golden Oak mansions are under construction currently; Disney says the project will ultimately have about 450 homes.
Four Seasons will become the second elite hotel brand to build at Disney World in recent years. Waldorf Astoria in 2009 opened a 498-room resort on a piece of land in Bonnet Creek, a small area in the midst of Disney World that is not owned by the giant resort.
Although the Four Seasons will include approximately 37,750 square feet of meeting and event space, the Disney World hotel is likely to cater to a higher mix of leisure travelers than the typical Four Seasons. The company currently operates 85 hotels, with roughly two-thirds in cities and the other third in resort destinations.