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ORLANDO-A new hotel brand with a residential component is slated to open in early 2008 on the north side of Universal Boulevard, across from the four-million-sf Orange County Convention Center, hospitality industry sources in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com. However, a ground-breaking date and the purchase of the required land for the project haven’t been formally released.

The estimated $75-million, 300-room Solid Resort and Spa is part of Solis, a new luxury hotel brand being created by Atlanta-based West Paces Hotel Group and headed by Horst Schultze, former president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.. Ritz-Carlton is now part of the Marriott International which bought it in 2001.

Besides the regular guest rooms, Orlando Solis will have 60 for-sale suites, a restaurant, spa and fitness facility, and a meeting and banquet area, according to Schultze who unveiled the brand at a press conference in Atlanta. Douglas Ivester, the former CEO at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co., is a major investor in West Paces Hotel Group, persons in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com. Schultze and Ivester couldn’t be reached by GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline for comments on their new venture.

Besides Orlando, Solis resorts are scheduled for development in the Paradise Valley area of Phoenix; the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, GA; Chicago, San Antonio and Frankfurt, Germany. The first development phase of the six properties is expected to cost an estimated $700 million, according to Schultze.

The master developer and general contractor for Orlando Solis is Thomas Enterprises Inc. which operates offices in metro Atlanta in Newnan, GA and Smyrna, GA. Stanley E. Thomas, president of Thomas Enterprises and a long-time Georgia cattle rancher and shopping center developer, is partnering with TDS Inc. of Atlanta on the Orlando project.

Thomas stepped onto Orlando real estate turf in February 2003 with the bargain purchase of 1,800 prime acres near the Orange County Convention Center where he and partner Marc Watson, a former Universal Studios executive, plan a $1.2-billion mixed-use enterprise. Thomas and Watson, through their operating company, Fourth Quarter Properties XLIX LC, paid Universal Studios an estimated $70 million or about $38, 889 per acre (89 cents per sf), as GlobeSt.com previously reported.

The partners are now selling parts of that land for almost 25 times more than what they paid for the dirt, a senior Orlando industrial broker intimate with the transaction tells GlobeSt.com.

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