ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Joshua Wallack originally thought he was just buying a patch of land off Orlando's International Drive that would one day house a parking lot for his restaurant group's newest venture in central Florida.
But when several stakeholders opposed having a lot on the proposed site, he agreed to a new spot. There was just one problem.
"It was like, 'What the heck are we going to do with the land we were going to use to park cars on?" Wallack said.
A year later he's now looking forward to being a major part of the latest face lifts to one of Orlando's most-visited areas.
By 2016 the Orlando International Drive District, a first of its kind when it was established in 1993, will house two new entertainment complexes.
Mango's Tropical Cafe Orlando, co-owned by Wallack and his father, David, announced plans this month to bring the world's tallest roller coaster — 570-foot The Skyscraper — and the $200 million, 495,000-square foot Skyplex indoor entertainment complex to I-Drive. It will join the nearby I-Drive 360 shopping, dining and entertainment complex being developed by Unicorp National Developments, and including Merlin Entertainments trio of attractions — the 400-foot Orlando Eye Ferris wheel, Madame Tussauds wax museum, and Sea Life Orlando aquarium.
Skyplex and I-Drive 360, which officials hope will be a new centerpiece for the well-travelled tourist vein, will also be joined by several new restaurants and projects including a new Titanic: The Experience museum.
"Other than Walt Disney World, every other major attraction is on International Drive," Joshua Wallack said. "There are about 60 million tourists and conventioneers coming every year to the Orlando tourist corridor, and if you have critical mass with your attractions, you're gonna get lots of customers. I think International Drive is in a Renaissance period."