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First floor of Hilton takes form

By the end of this month, residents and workers at Carillon Office Park will see the nine-story Hilton hotel rising on its site at 950 Lake Carillon Drive.

Work has been going on for seven months, but it has been on foundation and footers, said Tony Dzianott, director of operations for Heartland Hotel Corp. He is based in Dallas.

"By the end of January, the second floor should be visible," said Dzianott.

Some time during the first quarter of this year, construction should start on 180 Carillon, a multiuse building that also is planned to be nine stories. Named for its street address, 180 Carillon will have street-level retail, two floors of parking and 72 condominiums in the remaining floors.

"We are permitted for the retail and parking," said Jim White of White Development, who is building 180 Carillon. He said plans for the condominiums are not yet complete.

Carillon Office Park is a collection of companies in a college campus-like setting in north St. Petersburg. It has 35 companies that employ about 12,000 workers. Residences also are there, and more are being built. Walking trails wind through the park. Echelon Development, which spearheaded creation of the park, wants it to have a town center also. In the 1990s it planned an enormous center to be built all at once. Several years later, it scaled back and refigured its plan so the center could be rolled out in pieces.

Already a Publix grocery is in operation along with an AmSouth Bank and Courtside Grille. Another branch bank, this one for SunTrust, is under construction. Across from it is a free-standing building that is finished and for lease by Retail One in Tampa. Space in the Grille building also is available.

The hotel is an integral part of the town center, and developers pursued one for several years before signing with Hilton.

Heartland Hotel announced the location of the new Hilton at Carillon in August 2003. It will be called the Hilton St. Petersburg at Carillon Park. It is expected to be open by the end of this year with average room rents around $135 per night, Dzianott said.

"The hurricanes put a major delay on us," he said, referring to the four storms that hit Florida, beginning in August.

"We are out of hurricane season. All of our subcontractors are lined up. Barring any very unforeseen situations, we shouldn't have any trouble" keeping to the schedule.

Since the announcement, some changes have been made to the building's plans. Early plans called for 217 rooms, of which 45 would be suites. Heartland decided to do fewer suites and probably will build 35. That left space for 227 rooms, Dzianott said.

A 9,000-square-foot ballroom will be built so that it can be reconfigured into six smaller rooms. Another 6,000 square feet will be devoted to pre-function space and deck space overlooking the lake.

The hotel, a $25-million project, also will have a heated pool, restaurant and hot-tub area.

White said 180 Carillon will be about a $21-million project. Construction costs have risen enough in the nearly two years since the project was announced, and prices are not set on the condominiums. They will range in size from 1,200 square feet to 1,800 square feet and have one, two and three bedrooms.

"They will be luxury with high ceilings," White said.

The ground floor will have 18,500 square feet of retail space, which will be divided up into 14 stores. White said about 70 percent of the space is leased and will include retailers such as a day spa, coffee shop, dry cleaners, hair salon, two restaurants and a sandwich shop.

"We wanted neighborhood type of uses," White said.

The building will take about a year to finish, White said.

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