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ORLANDO-The late Robert E. Langford, a Chicago-born developer/investor who built Orlando area’s first air-conditioned hotel in 1956, is probably smiling today as he learns his shuttered 213-room hotel property is headed for reincarnation as a five-star, $70-million, 150-room, 25-condominium complex in affluent Winter Park, an Orlando suburb.

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts of Dallas will manage the property. Condos will be priced from $1.3 million to $2 million.

The project will be Winter Park’s first hotel development in 30 years. The estimated per-room hard construction cost for a total 175 units is $400,000 per unit, the highest in recent hotel construction annals, industry estimators tell GlobeSt.com.

Fort Lauderdale developer Mark Ellert, president of Interlink Hospitality Corp., is expected to close on the property this fall if Winter Park city council approves his plans for the new Langford Resort Hotel.

Ellert and associates Jim Heistand of Orlando and Ezra Katz of South Florida are buying the old Langford’s 213 rooms and four adjoining acres for $10 million or about $46,948 per room.

The Langford name will remain on the new hotel. Ellert’s partners in Langford Development are experienced investors and developers. Heistand is president of Capital Partners Inc. Katz is chairman/CEO of Aztec Group Inc. in Coral Gables, FL.

Ellert’s 233-room, $36-million Marriott Renaissance Hotel opened last week as Fort Lauderdale’s first full-service luxury inn built in 10 years. The estimated cost of that project is $154,506 per room.

Updated construction and development cost estimates will probably be disclosed at the July 17 meeting of the Winter Park planning and zoning board. If that board approves Ellert’s project, the city commission will vote on a development order request Aug. 14.

But the developer has some rocky hurdles to clear before the project even gets off the drawing board. Ellert has to convince city planner Jeff Briggs that the hotel’s height of 68 feet and the condominium’s height of 75 feet pose no special problems for the surrounding neighborhood and existing commercial interests.

That will be no small chore, area brokers who have been following the project’s plans for the past year, tell GlobeSt.com. Winter Park’s current height limit for commercial buildings is 55 feet.

If he can survive the height challenge, Ellert’s group then has to ask the city for a waiver on setbacks, lot coverage, parking standards and stormwater retention.

“If he has any more potential code violations, he had better speak up quickly,” a city staffer tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “This city goes by the (code ordinance) book.”

Besides the total 175 planned hotel and condo units, the Langford Development plans 2,000 sf of retail, a 200-seat restaurant, a 250-car garage with 52 additional surface spots, a 10,000-sf ballroom and meeting room area and a 12,500-sf spa and fitness center.

Those amenities compare with the old hotel’s 122-seat restaurant, 920-sf spa and fitness center, 1,045 sf of retail and an 11,900-sf ballroom/meeting area. Orlando-based ACI Inc. is designing the new Langford.

Ellert plans to demolish all but a small portion of the existing 240,000-sf hotel, which was built 45 years ago for $1 million or $5,000 per room, according to published articles. The replacement cost today for a comparable lodging property would be at least $150,000 per room or $30 million, construction industry estimators tell GlobeSt.com.

The original Langford Resort Hotel closed its doors June 1, 2000. Founder Robert E. Langford died of heart failure March 31 of this year. He was 88.

The property is located in one of the most desirable and high-priced Winter Park residential/commercial areas. In its heyday, the hotel attracted the rich and famous, as well as the notorious, according to published accounts of the young city’s social life.

The Langford’s main magnet for celebrities was its secluded location, Winter Park old-timers tell GlobeSt.com. Among the guests were former President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy; Eleanor Roosevelt; Mamie Eisenhower; comedian Henny Youngman; astronaut John Glenn; and even some members of Chicago’s Capone Gang, registering under assumed names.

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