|City/Town: • Orlando
|Location Class: • Commercial
|Built: • 1972 | Abandoned: • 2012
|Status: • Abandoned
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit
The Orlando Sun Resort and Convention Center first opened in 1972 as the Hyatt Orlando Resort. The resort had long been regarded as the premier resort in the area and considered by many as the epitome of modernity which was a huge hit at the time considering Tomorrowland had opened just less than a year prior and the moon landing occurred two years before that. Futurism was all the buzz. The Hyatt was also in a prime location just off of US192 and I4, less than five minutes from Magic Kingdom. The location benefitted the resort throughout the years with the openings of Disney’s multiple parks such Epcot in 1982 and Hollywood Studios in 1989, Universal Studios in 1990, and the many other attraction which opened following Disney’s move to Florida.
Following the September 11th attacks, Central Florida’s tourism industry as people were more reluctant to travel by air due to increased fear of a repeat attack. Hotel occupancy rates in Central Florida dropped from 66 percent to 44 percent, total visitors to the area dropped by more than 2.7 million, and more than 10,000 jobs were lost. Some businesses such as Splendid China, for example, could not weather the depression and the Hyatt was no different. In May 2002, it was announced that Orlando Hyatt Hotel Associates LP had filed for bankruptcy not long after LaSalle Bank National Association of Illinois foreclosed on Orlando Hyatt after the company missed a mortgage payment. Orlando Hyatt at the time owed the bank $29.5 million, including penalties and interest. Less than a year later, on September 12, 2003, the Hyatt Orlando Resort abruptly closed down giving only a day’s notice to employees, and guests were told in the morning to leave by noon regardless of their itinerary.
In 2004, the 77-acre property was purchased at auction for around $30 million by The Moinian Group, one of the largest privately-held real estate firms in the United States. According to the plan submitted by the developers, the aging and deteriorating buildings were to be demolished and replaced with a newer, more modern luxury resort featuring two or three luxury hotel brands with as many as 3,460 rooms, a spa, and a water park. The demolition phase was set to begin in 2009 and the construction of the new resort was set to be completed by 2016. While awaiting land-use approvals, finding investors, and completing the designs for the planned Landmark Sun Resort & Spa, The Moinian Group decided to take advantage of the functional hotel they had on hand and decided to reopen it in the meantime. A $5 million renovation was undertaken which included $750,000 in landscaping, replacement of the old furniture, linens, curtains, and bedspreads, and the addition of free WIFI in each room. After years of sitting vacant, the resort reopened as the Orlando Sun Resort in June 2007.
Since its opening, the Orlando Sun Resort was plagued with issues due to a lack of maintenance and mismanagement which reflected in the countless horrible reviews it received. Many of the reviews pointed out mildew and mold throughout the property, the pools which were filled with stagnant green water, and how outdated it looked. Almost every review though mentioned how nice the staff which was later found out to have been taken advantage of. While much of the staff lived on the property, they would go for months without being paid with one employee suing the resort for unpaid wages. The resort would ultimately close down in 2012. As of this writing, their website remains up as well as their Twitter and Youtube channel, although both haven’t been active since 2012 except for a few Farmville tweets. The property was put up for sale in 2014 for $75 million and continues to be owned by Orlando Sun Resort LLC.