My Or­lando

Chuck Whit­tall

Where Orlando - - Front Page -

See that new hu­mon­gous ob­ser­va­tion wheel from I-4? The de­vel­oper be­hind the I-Drive 360 tells us all about it.

Well-known Or­lando de­vel­oper Chuck Whit­tall is re­spon­si­ble for many of the prop­er­ties on Sand Lake Road, known as "Restau­rant Row," as well as one of 2015's big­gest at­trac­tions: the I-Drive 360. The devel­op­ment fea­tures the im­pres­sive 400-foot Or­lando Eye ob­ser­va­tion wheel and ma­jor en­ter­tain­ment venues, restau­rants and re­tail­ers open­ing now on In­ter­na­tional Drive. You're an Or­lando na­tive. When was your first trip to Dis­ney?

I went the first week it opened in 1971. I was five years old. My fa­ther was a fire­man and worked at Or­ange County, and they hired the off-duty fire­men to work the theme park. I got in free. It was much smaller back then. They had the Fan­ta­sy­Land area and the Carousel of Progress. It was great—we got to go all the time. What was the city like 27 years ago when you got your start in real es­tate? There was no Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios, no Down­town Dis­ney, no Mil­lenia Mall … only a small stretch of In­ter­na­tional Drive. And, Sand Lake Road was all or­ange groves. You've done a tremen­dous amount of work in the re­tail and restau­rant devel­op­ment sec­tor. Is the I-Drive 360 project, with its fo­cus on en­ter­tain­ment, a dif­fer­ent un­der­tak­ing for you?

Well, we have built a lot of life­style cen­ters, so it does fall in tune with the other projects, but this is the first one that’s had a ride, an at­trac­tion. Your lat­est devel­op­ment, I-Drive 360 open­ing this month, will have a 400-foot ob­ser­va­tion wheel, an aquar­ium, Madame Tus­sauds wax mu­seum, var­i­ous shops and restau­rants ... what other cities have this kind of of­fer­ing?

Maybe Las Ve­gas and cer­tain mar­kets in Cal­i­for­nia, but Or­lando is re­ally set apart from other des­ti­na­tions in the world. Or­lando is a world-class tourist des­ti­na­tion and also a con­ven­tion des­ti­na­tion so it’s the right place for a project of this mag­ni­tude. So why In­ter­na­tional Drive?

I bought the prop­erty in 2004, and we sat on it for a num­ber of years, not re­ally know­ing what we were go­ing to do with it. We just knew it was a great piece of prop­erty near Sand Lake Road. To­day, with the I-Drive shops [at the Wyn­d­ham Or­lando Re­sort], the Vue at 360 [for­merly Kings Plaza on In­ter­na­tional Drive], and all the de­vel­op­ments, it’s the per­fect time. The I-Drive 360 is a great fit around vis­i­tors’ itin­er­ar­ies for the theme parks. They can visit our at­trac­tion the day they check in or the day they check out. What do you like most about Or­lando?

Or­lando is ab­so­lutely a great place to live, work and play. It’s great for rais­ing kids, great for en­ter­tain­ment. We can go to the I-Drive area and the Sand Lake area and have din­ner and drinks with­out hav­ing to drive too far. With ev­ery­thing that Uni­ver­sal and Dis­ney are do­ing, and with what we’re do­ing on I-Drive and on Uni­ver­sal Drive, it’s go­ing to con­tinue to be­come a great place. Crime is very low. And I al­ways tell peo­ple, the tem­per­a­ture here in Or­lando is great nine months a year and good for the other three in the sum­mer.

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