In the middle of the famous tourist corridor, on the grave of the defunct Mercado shopping village, a 400-foot-tall observation wheel is rising, dwarfing a collection of new shops and restaurants being built near its base. A few blocks north, redevelopment continues on the Wyndham Orlando resort. Across the street from that, developers say, they'll build a
Keep going and you'll reach the new
By conservative estimates, the projects represent half a billion dollars in spending and the most explosive burst of activity along I-Drive in more than a decade. And they'll create hundreds of new jobs
"There has been a huge resurgence on I-Drive," said
The projects, if they all pan out, could radically alter the face of the tourist district and, possibly, change its personality.
Historically, I-Drive, with more than 100 hotels and 200 restaurants, has served as a bedroom community for
The projects underway -- and those being planned -- won't challenge the dominance of
"Potentially, this sort of extends the theme-park experience out onto the Drive," said
The work parallels a rebound in tourism that has helped make
Those numbers create investor confidence.
Crotty, who served from 2001 to 2011, saw the best and worst of
"It's all about time and place with these investments," Crotty said at a recent I-Drive luncheon. "And we've got it going on right now."
"Now," Larkin said, "you see everybody moving forward."
While welcome news to tourism leaders, the projects aren't without a downside.
More attractions could exacerbate I-Drive's traffic problems. County and city officials are building bus-only lanes to give visitors an alternative to waiting in traffic, but those are likely to do little to ease overall congestion.
Terry, who once managed I-Drive hotels, said that traffic, while a mundane topic, is a serious threat to the corridor's future.
"There's no doubt it's an issue," he said. "And it'll hurt business if they don't address it."
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