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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL-Canadian-based Vista Hospitality Inc. has purchased the SunSpree Resort by Holiday Inn, near Walt Disney World, at a substantial discount from its previous sale price. Molinaro Koger, a Washington, DC-based hotel brokerage that marketed the property on behalf of Miami Beach-based LNR Property Corp., says the sale of the 507-room resort is the largest hotel sale so far this year.

“The SunSpree Resort was a high-profile assignment, given its size and premium destination resort location,” Ali Baheri, senior vice president of Molinaro Koger, stated in a release. The company declined to disclose the sale price, though published reports put it at $17.5 million-a 60% discount from the previous sale price of approximately $48 million in 1999.

SunSpree, which was developed in 1990 on ten acres near Interstate 4 and SR 535 adjacent to the massive Disney property, has had a troubled financial history. Wells Fargo Bank took the hotel in a foreclosure settlement in 2001 when its original owner, LBVKS of Fort Worth, TX, defaulted on a $58-million mortgage.

The family-themed hotel, which has nearly half its rooms as suites, is the biggest to trade nationwide this year on the basis of number of rooms, according to sales tracked by CB Richard Ellis. The next-largest hotel, the 494-room JW Marriott in New Orleans, sold for $67.5 million or $136,640 per unit in January.

The most-expensive hotel sold in the last quarter was Chicago’s James Hotel, at $119 million or just over $400,000 per room, while the cheapest was a 350-room Radisson Hotel in Norfolk, VA, for $10 million or $28,571 per room, CBRE reports. At roughly $34,500 per room, SunSpree would be among the lowest-priced deals thus far in 2008.

“Full-service properties located in significant resort locations with barriers to entry and strong commercial drivers continue to be one of the top hospitality acquisition targets for global investors,” Baheri said. Molinaro Koger claims more than $15 billion worth of hotel sales over the last four decades, including $4.2 billion in just the last year, according to its release announcing the SunSpree sale.

Vista Hospitality, based in Kitchener, Ontario, owns two other hotels in Florida: Holiday Inn-Kennedy Space Center in Titusville and the Clarion Hotel Maingate in Orlando. The company will manage SunSpree and keep it within the InterContinental Hotels Group as a Holiday Inn resort.

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