Make us your home page
Instagram

Aloft Tampa Downtown opens after $20 million transformation

TAMPA — When Punit Shah and Santosh Govindaraju bought the old Mercantile Bank building on Kennedy Boulevard, the ground floor was flooded, the elevators didn't work and demolition had been scheduled.

Two years and $20 million later, the pair on Wednesday celebrated the opening of the Aloft Tampa Downtown, a 130-room boutique hotel with views of the Hillsborough River, a bar, a poolside lounge and a sleek modern look.

"This was an abandoned building," said Shah, chief executive officer of Liberty Group, who partnered with Govindaraju's Convergent Capital Partners. But not one without a history: Every day, Shah said, someone tells him some tale about the building's past, including that Colombian drug dealers once tossed cocaine off the back of the property.

The original bank was built on about a half-acre in 1965. It closed as an office building in 2005 and was sold for $9 million in 2006 to a condominium developer with plans for a 52-story tower. After that plan unraveled in the real estate crash, Shah and Govindaraju stepped in. Shah said they worked to convince Aloft's parent company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, "why this is the right product for this market, the right location, and the right demographic for this brand."

"We know this is the best fit for Tampa, the future of Tampa and where the city's headed," he said.

When Shah and Govindaraju look at distressed properties around downtown, they tend to think big. Along with the Aloft project, they tried to win control of Channelside Bay Plaza in a yearlong legal battle that ended just this week in a settlement putting the waterfront mall in the hands of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

Aloft will charge rates that start at $159 per night and go up from there, varying with the season. The hotel began checking in guests on July 17, was 25 percent occupied on Wednesday and has its first sold-out night booked for Tuesday.

The Aloft is the second new hotel to open in the past two months inside a previously shuttered downtown building. In June, a Le Méridien, another Starwood brand, opened a 130-room hotel after a $26 million transformation of Tampa's historic but long-vacant former federal courthouse on N Florida Avenue.

To Mayor Bob Buckhorn, both projects are critically important.

"We needed to put these buildings back to productive use," he said. Beyond that, he said, energizing Tampa's waterfront, once an area of dilapidated wharves, will become "our calling card," particularly with "the young hipsters and the folks who can afford $12 martinis."

"Our ability to attract intellectual capital," Buckhorn said, "our ability to attract those millennials, our ability to attract those bright professionals from all over the globe to come here and be a part of this community, particularly to be a part of the urban core, depends upon places just like this."

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

Aloft Tampa Downtown opens after $20 million transformation 07/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa Bay small businesses give Tampa B+ for regulatory climate

    Corporate

    In a recent survey about small business sentiments toward state and local government policies that affect them, Tampa Bay ranked at No. 25 out of 80 — a B+ overall.

    Tampa Bay ranked No. 25 out of 80 in a recent survey about how small business owners feel about state and local government policies that affect them. | [Times file photo]
  2. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe has been taking precautions in light of the Seminole Heights killings: keeping the lights on all night and having employees walk to their cars in groups.
  3. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees

    Airlines

    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  4. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]
  5. Estuary wins pier design contest for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — And the winner is… Estuary.

    Voters overwhelmingly supported a pier design called Estuary for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa.
[Courtesy of AECOM]