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ORLANDO-Another sign that things may slowly be turning around for some of the major operators in metro Orlando’s hospitality sector comes as Walt Disney World plans a total renovation of its dining sector at the 14-year-old, 2,112-room, $32 million Caribbean Beach Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL.

In an unprecedented move for Disney, theme park officials are shutting down the entire 700-staff resort from Sept. 8 to Dec. 24 when the new 128-seat Shutter’s at Old Port Royale opens for the 2003 tourist season.

Disney representatives couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn the renovation cost. But area construction industry estimators and local hospitality consultants tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity the number will be at least $2 million.

The sit-down restaurant will be built in the existing 308-seat food court area. Disney doesn’t disclose monthly occupancy figures but area hospitality consultants tell GlobeSt.com the Caribbean is about 70% full.

The closing down of the Caribbean follows the May 31 reopening of the the 1,008-room French Quarter hotel in the Port Orleans resort enclave, closed since Oct. 31, 2001 after occupancy couldn’t climb over the 50% level.

The 2,048-room Riverside Hotel, also a part Port Orleans , reopened in March after closing in fall of last year.

Still on the shelf, however, is the half-completed $460 million, 5,760-room, two-building Pop Century Resort being developed at a hard cost of $79,861 per room next to the 350-acre Wide World of Sports stadium.

The Pop Century was scheduled to debut in March of this year with average nightly room rates of $80, among the lowest in the company’s lodging stable of 18-owned/operated hotels comprising 20,942 rooms. Construction was halted after 9-11.

But a $50 million construction job at the eight-year-old, 287-room Shades of Green resort, owned by the Army on Disney property, is under way to double the size to 574 rooms near the Magic Kingdom attraction.

The 99%-occupied hotel is not open to the general public because it is rented out exclusively to military personnel and their families.

Still on the drawing board is a $200 million, 400-acre, 450-room resort planned by Toronto-based Four Seasons Hotels Inc. in Celebration, FL, the Disney-created residential-commercial community 10 minutes from the theme park in north Osceola County and 20 miles south of Downtown Orlando.

One of the area’s newest, non-Disney owned hotel properties that opened in May is the 350-room Residence Inn at SeaWorld International Center, 11000 Westwood Boulevard. CNL Hospitality Corp. of Orlando is the owner; Marriott International Inc., the manager.

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