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ORLANDO-Encouraged by a growing gay market in the metro area over the past 20 years, resort developer and nightclub owner Don Granastein plans to break ground in November on the Gardens, a $21-million, 164-room timeshare community next to his off Downtown Parliament House property at 410 N. Orange Blossom Trail.

Associates of Granastein tell GlobeSt.com the Gardens will be the first resort of its kind developed for and targeted at the gay customer and tourist in Orlando. The developer plans to duplicate the concept in Palm Springs, CA and Fort Lauderdale.

The resort will have a South Miami Beach ambience with a specific art deco style, Granastein associates say. The units are being built at a hard construction cost of $128,048 per room.

The first 36 units at the Gardens are expected to be ready for occupancy by December 2005. The entire project is tentatively scheduled for completion in 2008. Timeshare weeks will sell for $8,500 to $14,400. One-bedroom units will average 909 sf; two bedrooms, 1,404 sf. Lifetime deeds will be part of the contract.

New Jersey-based RCI, the largest time-share exchange company in the US, has signed a six-year contract with Granastein to add the Gardens to its network of affiliated vacation resorts. RCI has also designated the Gardens as a Gold Crown property, the equivalent of a first-class hotel, local hospitality industry consultants tell GlobeSt.com.

On the heels of Granastein’s project is another resort and nightclub venture that will cater primarily, but not exclusively, to the gay market, area brokers tell GlobeSt.com. Planned for a November opening, Freedom Resort and Spa will open in a former Travelodge property on US 192 in Kissimmee, near Walt Disney World.

Freedom Resort will not be competing as a timeshare with the Gardens, but will offer $100 memberships that will entitle members to a week’s stay, according to Benny Lacks, vice president of marketing for the resort.

The annual Gay Days event at Walt Disney World has clearly stamped the gay consumer as a niche market, especially in real estate endeavors, senior area developers say.

“Just like some developers cater to the seniors-housing market or the physically handicapped markets, you’re going to see more and more developers coming forth and announcing they’re planning to create resorts, condo communities or apartment complexes for special market segments, like the gay community in Orlando,” a Winter Park developer tells GlobeSt.com. “Developers go where the money is–and right now, it’s with the gay and lesbian communities here.”

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