For more than three decades, the Grand Cypress Resort, with its luxury villas and 45 golf holes designed by Jack Nicklaus, was a prime resort address in Orlando’s Lake Buena Vista/Walt Disney World corridor. For example, the resort was among the first to have a golf academy complete with cameras and computers, and three practice holes. Its “New’’ Course design paid homage to the famed Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland.
In November of 2019, Grand Cypress Resort owners Dart Interests informed its employees it planned to embark on a four-year expansion, a multi-billion dollar plan that would take the property to untold heights. The result would be Evermore Orlando Resort. Dart closed a trio of nine-hole layouts – the North, East, and South – the golf academy, the clubhouse, and stays at villas while they also received refreshed interiors.
The New Course, which has been renamed The Links Course, remains open throughout the construction. A new Nicklaus Design layout on the southern 18 holes will become fully accessible to both guests and the public when Evermore Orlando Resort opens in January 2024.
“When I first heard about the plan, I thought it was incomprehensible,’’ said Darin Hoff, then and now the resort’s Director of Golf and Sports Sales. “Now, seeing it come to life, it’s like something people have never seen.’’
Indeed. The ambitious project, which will transition the resort from golf-centric to more leisure-centric, is being touted as a game-changer in the ever-changing Orlando hospitality market.
“We are going to become a disruptor,’’ Hoff said.
Disruptor… game changer… take your pick. Evermore Orlando Resort – 1,100 acres – clearly will be a different kind of resort destination, beginning with its 20-acre tropical beach complex and Evermore Bay and an eight-acre crystalline water amenity (17 million gallons) by Crystal Lagoons. The design incorporates environmentally sustainable technology that Crystal Lagoons says uses up to 100 times fewer chemicals and only two percent of the energy used by conventional swimming pool filtration systems, creating ideal conditions for guests to enjoy the water year-round.
The beach areas also have zero-entry swim areas, bars, cabanas, private fire-pits, and an aquatic adventure area with a waterslide, rope swing, and other water sports of all kinds. In addition, the resort will feature a food hall and gourmet market, a casual resort restaurant featuring views overlooking the golf course and bay, and a two-story Boathouse.
Evermore Orlando Resort’s first phase is expected to open with nearly 1,500 bedrooms spread among an array of stay experiences, including vacation homes, villas, and flats, in addition to a 433-room luxury Conrad Orlando hotel.
The first phase plans include 69 houses ranging in size from five to eleven bedrooms. Beyond vacation homes, 206 four-bedroom flats and 41 classic villas have been reconfigured to two and four-bedroom options.
Here’s the disruptor part: Short-term vacation rentals are not allowed in Orange County, FL., which includes the Evermore Orlando Resort. That’s why most of the short-term rental properties in Central Florida are located to the west in Kissimmee and greater Osceola County. To that end, Dart will operate Evermore Orlando strictly as a resort with no individual owners.
“We will not have any direct competition in our county,’’ Hoff said.
With the launch of the Evermore project, Dart Interests President Christopher Kelsey said his company is introducing “an entirely new hospitality category’’ that will change the landscape of vacation rental homes.
“We are creating the first-ever wholly-owned, large-scale community of purpose-built vacation rental homes and operating them with hotel-quality standards and world-class resort amenities,’’ Kelsey said.”Our approach solves the No. 1 problem for vacation renters: uncertainty in the quality of the home. Almost all vacation rentals are owned by individuals, each with their own unique tastes and willingness to maintain the properties. Our centralized ownership model makes it possible for our guests to be certain that they are getting a first-class home with superior safety standards. Our scale also means that we can deliver a wider array of services to our guests, making their visit easier and more enjoyable. Plus, our range in sizes – from two bedrooms to 11, makes us the perfect destination for any group, including large multi-generational or multi-family gatherings.’’