A future attraction touted as the world's largest Ferris wheel is rolling forward, thanks to approval by an Orange County development board on Wednesday. Called the "Eye of Orlando," it's now a step closer to opening.
The International Drive project, announced in March of this year, will feature a 45-story wheel that will be taller than Orlando's highest structures, including downtown's Suntrust Tower, according to Unicorp developer Chuck Wittal. His company also plans a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, restaurants, stores and an aquarium.
The Ferris wheel's cabins will be able to hold dozens of guests and could attract millions of people to an area along the tourist strip that has failed to generate much interest. The project would be built on the site of the old Mercado, a shopping and entertainment complex built in the 1990s but was recently demolished.
"I think a Ferris wheel would be a ball. That would be a real hoot," said Sherilynn Denton, of Ohio.
Hanzah LaRichie's eyes lit up when he heard about the 430-foot wheel.
"That would be amazing," said the tourist visiting from Great Britain.
Local businesses may be interested as well.
Nathan Philips, who works at Charley's Steakhouse along International Drive, said the area needs an economic boost.
"The summer's when it's going down around here, but it's been declining pretty bad," Philips said.
The developer believes construction on the $100 million project could create 1,500 jobs.
After some minor tweaking, Orange County's building department will review the construction plans. Once permits are issued, groundbreaking could begin at the end of this year.