1900s Spanish Revival architecture revisited at Orlando’s newest resort.
By Carol Brzozowski
At the international tourist and business destination of Orlando, everything’s done up big.
There’s Disney World and Sea World. Universal Studios too.
So it’s quite fitting one of the region’s newest convention resorts be constructed on a grand scale. Rosen Shingle Creek Resort and Convention Center, slated to open this fall, is hailed as one of central Florida’s largest full-service convention resorts.
The 230-acre resort features 1,500 guest rooms and 445,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 95,000-square foot column-free ballroom. So named for the Florida Everglades’ headwaters, Rosen Shingle Creek Resort and Convention Center is located near many of the area’s tourist attractions.
Precast concrete played a pivotal role in the resort’s construction. With its high-carved arches and warm earth tones, Rosen Shingle Creek hotel is reminiscent of 1900s Spanish Revival architecture. Its overall design imitates the coral found along Florida’s coastline.
Garrit Toohey, vice president of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, said his company wanted liberal use of precast concrete in the design of its latest property, Shingle Creek Resort and Convention Center. He said his company’s use of precast concrete has been met with much success, so matching architectural precast concrete as well as tilt-up panels for this project created successes in both design and structure.
“It’s very efficient, cost-effective and quick when you are dealing with ceiling heights that in some cases exceed 40 feet,” Toohey said.
The convention area is about one-half million square feet sectored into three ballrooms and numerous break-out meeting spaces. Empire Tilt-Up Systems, Deltona, Fla., manufactured the 594 precast concrete panels required to build the convention center. The company also manufactured the foundation and slabs for the structure.
For the break-out rooms, the convention center was designed with precast concrete walls so room dividers can be pushed back into pockets.
Stonecrafters Architectural Precast in Clearwater, Fla., crafted each coral-like piece of precast concrete for the hotel’s ornate interior. The manufacturer, owned by Gary Bolyard and Dennis Melucci, provided the columns, balustrades, molding (including base) and pool copings. In all, 3,000 lineal feet of wall cap, 3,000 lineal feet of base cladding, 250 columns and 1,000 lineal feet of pool coping would eventually frame the interior of Shingle Creek.
The architectural precast components give the resort a majestic, clean appearance. The structural columns offer a natural stone look while the precast base cladding accentuates the columns, giving a baseboard appearance to the rest of the building.
The pool coping hovers over the pool beam and is more than half of its width. Mechanically fastened to the back of the beam, it appears to float in mid air. “The water features at the site are just unbelievable and with all these different pools being right next to each other, the precast gives it a really nice frame,” Bolyard said.
The balustrade railings on the stairs of the convention center provide the feel of a grand entrance.
Bolyard said precast concrete was a natural choice of material for the Rosen Shingle Creek project.
“If you went with natural stone, the cost factor is unbelievable,” he said. “We replicate the look of cut coral stone and can effectively do it cheaper than the real stuff. Then there’s the durability: This will last the life of the building.”
“The speed of the job was a big factor because it was done in precast,” he said, adding the strength of the material is another plus.
“Everything else was done in precast walls,” he said. “All of the convention halls are 200 feet of clear width. There are no center columns at all, so the walls are actually load-bearing walls. It was designed so the walls would carry the metal roof structure.”
Shingle Creek didn’t have to search far to find a precaster well-suited for the project. Stonecrafters has been installing capstone for 15 years and manufacturing it for 10. The company does commercial and residential projects throughout the United States and the Caribbean.
Bolyard said although his company specializes in large jobs, the sheer magnitude of the Shingle Creek job presented challenges. During installation from April to August, his company had placed about five to 15 people at the site at any given time. That’s a major impact on a company with 35 employees in its manufacturing facility.
Despite the high volume of product churning out at Stonecrafters, meeting Rosen’s deadline wasn’t the biggest challenge – rather, it was waiting for a huge group of contractors to finish their part of the job.
Three teams of contractors had been working in tandem to build the expansive resort – one constructing the hotel, another creating the landscaping and a third handling the convention center. Stonecrafters needed to interact with all of them.
“We’re a trade that comes in toward the end of all the other trades, so we are always waiting for everybody else and trying to fit in where we can,” said Bolyard. Stonecrafters felt the heat waiting for the other contractors to finish. A deadline loomed not far off. “Usually the job falls behind and we’re asked to come in at a moment’s notice to finish up,” Bolyard said.
Roger Young of Welbro Companies in Maitland, Fla., spearheaded construction at Shingle Creek and praises the architectural and structural precast used at the resort. Young was specifically pleased with the architectural precast concrete, like the column covers and arches.
“Anytime you are putting precast over the top of finished products inside, you have challenges, but it worked very well,” he said.
Bolyard echoes Young’s words, saying that it’s “wonderful” such a state-of-the-art building can showcase precast concrete architecture.
“When you look down the columns in front of the convention center, you see more than a hundred columns in a row. It’s architecturally appealing,” he said.
The cut coral look replicated by precast concrete veneer may catch the eye of other developers because of the high visibility of the Rosen project, according to Bolyard.
“The style of the building really accentuates decorative precast and that Tuscany look,” he said. “It stands out. I’m sure there will be a lot of developers following that.”
In fact, he’s had close to two dozen calls over the past year requesting budget numbers to compare how a precast job compares with masonry, he said, adding that some have already made the conversion.
“It’s not necessarily the price, but speed is a big factor,” he said. “We’re putting 20,000-square-foot buildings up in a matter of three to four weeks, and that’s 30- to 40-foot-tall walls. We’re putting up buildings fast so they can get renters in faster than they would if it were a masonry building.”