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Private-equity firm plans boutique hotel in downtown Tampa

TAMPA — An old downtown office building could see new life as a boutique hotel, as a Tampa private-equity firm plans for millions in renovations to join a swelling crowd of chic hotels.

Convergent Capital Partners paid $2 million in May for the old Mercantile Bank building, an eight-story tower on the eastern shore of the Hillsborough River.

Now it says it plans to spend up to $7 million to restore the building as a swank hotel, with modern architecture, new landscaping and a bar and lounge overlooking the University of Tampa's minarets.

"We want this to have an upscale feel for the gateway to the city," firm partner Nik Sachdev said, "with that sleek, modern style, rather than the stuffiness you feel at modern hotels."

Financing, branding and pricing details, Sachdev said, remain under wraps. He estimated the as-yet-unnamed hotel would hold up to 120 rooms and open next October.

The building at 100 W Kennedy Blvd. needs new elevators and repairs to the roof and seawall, Sachdev said. River water sometimes pours into the bottom level, a two-floor parking garage.

Built in 1965, the 66,000-square-foot building stands on the southwest corner of Ashley Drive and Kennedy Boulevard, across from the Rivergate Tower, better known as the "beer can" building.

The site's last big plan, in 2006, was called Venu, a 50-story condo tower with its own collection of original art. Penthouses were to cost up to $3 million. The project crumbled during the crash.

Convergent Capital Partners specializes in "opportunistic real estate," Sachdev said, and has bought $350 million in distressed properties and unpaid loans across the state.

The firm owns the town center of FishHawk Ranch in Lithia and the Emerald Greens Golf Resort & Country Club in Carrollwood. The firm also made an offer on the Belleview Biltmore earlier this year, Sachdev said, but decided not to pursue it.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who met with the buyers before the deal closed, said, "It seemed like it was a real deal. I don't know if they would spend that kind of money if it wasn't."

Though the building itself is "butt ugly," Buckhorn said, "money cures a lot of ills. … The view alone and the proximity to the Riverwalk, I think, makes it a very valuable piece of property."

Boutique hotels built from the shells of downtown's yesteryear appear to be in full bloom.

The Floridan Hotel, built in the Jazz Age, reopened in July as the 196-room Floridan Palace. And a Memphis developer is converting the century-old federal courthouse into a 130-room hotel.

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this report. Drew Harwell can be reached at dharwell@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8252 .

Private-equity firm plans boutique hotel in downtown Tampa 10/10/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 11:22pm]
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