ORLANDO-Construction has started on the 498-room Waldorf-Astoria at Bonnet Creek and the 1,000-room Hilton Bonnet Creek Resort. The price tag for the two-hotel project tops $500 million.

GEM Realty Capital Inc., with Merrill Lynch Global Principal Investments and another private investment company, will partner with Bonnet Creek Venture Ltd. and Hilton Hotels Corp. to develop and own the resort. Hilton will manage the two properties, which are expected to be completed in late 2009.

“The hotels will be located in an area adjacent to Disney in an area called Bonnet Creek that’s undergoing a lot of development right now,” Hilton Hotels Corp. CEO Americas & Global Brands Tom Keltner tells GlobeSt.com. “The properties are convenient to Disney, convenient to Interstate 4 and close to the airport.”

Although there are three other hotels that operate under the Waldorf-Astoria Collection brand, this will be the first newly built Waldorf-Astoria since the original in New York opened 76 years ago, according to Keltner. It will feature some of the same food and beverage outlets in the New York property, such as Peacock Alley, Bull & Bear, Sir Harry’s Bar and Oscar’s. The design of the hotel will include some of the Art Deco aspects of the New York property.

The Waldorf-Astoria Bonnet Creek will be located at 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane and the Hilton Bonnet Creek will be located at 14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane. The two hotels will have a combined total of 125,000 sf of meeting space, of which 90,000 sf will be located in a conference facility. The largest ballroom will be 36,000 sf. The hotels will also share 5,000 sf of specialty retail. The project will include an 18-hole Rees Jones Championship designed golf course, a 24,000-sf spa and fitness center.

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