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Synergy Brings Answers to Question Mark-Shaped Building

Tue December 05, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Maybelle G. Cagle



Contractors have broken ground for one major hotel project in Celebration in Florida, and earthwork will begin in 2007 for another hotel in the Disney planned community.

Approximately 12 years ago, Celebration was undeveloped land used for relocating alligators that wandered into nearby Disney World. Disney commissioned famous architects to create a master plan for Celebration and to design its buildings.

The general contractor, Synergy Group SE Inc., is building the 240-suite condominium hotel complex called Icon Celebration Resort Condominium Residences. Synergy, which is headquartered in Michigan, opened its southeastern office a year ago because of the projects in Florida.

“We went from dirt to structure in 90 days,” Jerry Guidice, director of Synergy’s southeastern office, said about the current project.

The hotel is being constructed in an unusual shape — a question mark — on a 12-acre parcel of land. Construction began this past summer and is expected to be completed in 2007.

Synergy cleared the land for the hotel and then brought utilities to the site from “up the road,” said Guidice.

He said challenges involving earthwork included the building’s unusual shape. “It’s hard to fill with a bulldozer when you’re going in a circle. A lot of the dirt had to be compacted by hand,” he added.

Joe Fard, owner of the Sitek Corporation in Orlando, did the dirt work for the project. An engineer, Fard has had 25 years experience in construction. He has owned his company for five years. Fard said this was the first time for him to work on an unusually-shaped structure. The challenge came in the order of how the job went down. The crew first built footers, then came back in to backfill and seal the pad to grade.

“Usually in construction, you fill to grade and then put in the footers,” Fard said.

Fard said the water table had to be lowered so the building pad wouldn’t flood. This involved dewatering the building pad.

He noted the building was backfilled with approximately 5 ft. (1.5 m) of fill. Approximately 10,000 cu. yds. (7,645 cu m) of fill was excavated from nearby ponds and Sitek imported an additional 28,000 cu. yds. (21,407 cu m) of fill to bring the building pad and site to grade.

Caterpillar and John Deere equipment at the site includes dozers, excavators and loaders for the dirt work. An 80- ton (725 t) crane was used to lift materials at the site.

Fard expects to work with Synergy on another hotel project now under way, Grande Palisades Resort at Lake Austin Reserve in the Orlando area. Synergy also has been selected general contractor for another Mona Lisa project and Fard is likely to do the dirt work for it as well.

Mona Lisa Development, the U.S. affiliate of Mona Lisa Hotels and Residences of France, is partnering with the Related Group of Florida, one of the state’s largest condo builders, to build a 450-room condo hotel in the southern part of the community.

“We are still going through design and development. We hope to start construction in August 2007,” said Bryon Gumbs, project manager of the Related Group.

The Icon hotel is scheduled for completion by 2009.

Utilities are stubbed up to the site. “That means utilities are adjacent to the site. We just have to tap the lines to get access to water and sewer,” Gumbs said.

Site work for the new hotel will involve clearing the wooded site and doing some grading.

“We do not know who will execute the site work yet. The Related Group bids all of its projects to third party general contractors,” Gumbs said.

Hotel buildings for Icon Celebration will range from eight to 16 stories.

Bill Haberman, principal and chief operating officer of the U.S. affiliate of Mona Lisa, said in a statement he and his partners view Orlando as the best condo-hotel market in the world with Celebration being a special location.

“For the past couple of years, we’ve been working on commercial development in Celebration. We wrapped up neighborhood development a couple of years ago,” said Andrea Finger, a spokesperson of the Celebration Company.

She said the company sold the town center, Market Street, to Lexin Capital, a private real estate investment company. As part of the sale, the private company agreed to retain and uphold the architectural design standards established by The Celebration Company.

The purchase by Lexin encompassed 18 acres (7.3 ha) containing 16 retail shops, six full-service restaurants, more than 94,000 sq. ft. of commercial office space, 105 private apartments and three land parcels.

When the 9,000 residents of Celebration recently commemorated their 10th Founders Day, they had good cause for celebration. In the past decade, Celebration has successfully combined education, health, community, technology and architecture into a community with a strong sense of self. The community represents a $2.5 billion investment.

“It’s a beautiful community,” said Marnie Schubert, a spokesperson of the Town Hall.

Schubert said there are sidewalks everywhere and that boardwalks go through the wetlands. There are approximately 3,500 acres (1,416 ha) developed into living spaces with another 3,500 acres (1,416 ha) in the wetlands.

The town isn’t incorporated, but a task force is conducting surveys about incorporation, said Schubert. She said there is expected to be a referendum next November on incorporation. CEG