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Tampa’s JW Marriott opens Monday; here’s a first look inside

The much-anticipated luxury hotel is a key part of the $3.5 billion Water Street Tampa development.
At right, beyond hanging art inside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street, sits a floating conference room dubbed the "Skybox" on Dec. 18 in Tampa.
At right, beyond hanging art inside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street, sits a floating conference room dubbed the "Skybox" on Dec. 18 in Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Dec. 18, 2020

TAMPA — When it opens on Monday, the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street could usher in a new era of hospitality downtown.

“This is probably going to be a four-star or -diamond,” said Christopher Adkins, the highly anticipated hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “This will be higher — and much higher, in many ways — than the Marriott.”

Even before opening its doors opposite the Tampa Marriott Water Street, the first JW Marriott in Tampa Bay has made a splashy debut.

The 27-story, $200 million-plus hotel is a centerpiece component of Water Street Tampa, the $3.5 billion development from Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and an investment company owned by Bill Gates that envelops acres of prime real estate between the Tampa Convention Center and Port Tampa Bay.

The hotel is already the temporary practice home to the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, who are starting this season in Tampa due to travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. It will likely host visiting NBA and NHL teams, and along with the adjacent Marriott will serve as the NFL’s headquarters during February’s Super Bowl in Tampa.

A stream of water runs down a wall outside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18 in Tampa.
A stream of water runs down a wall outside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18 in Tampa. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

The Water Street property is Marriott’s 100th under the JW Marriott brand, which Adkins says conveys “approachable luxury.” But the hotel brings Tampa more than a new destination for weddings, fine dining and panoramic views.

The two Marriott hotels combine for more than 1,200 rooms and 140,000 square feet of event space. Guests in one can use amenities in the other, effectively turning the properties into one big Marriott complex — the company’s largest in Florida outside of Orlando. That enables Marriott to try and lure conventions and gatherings that otherwise wouldn’t have come here.

“It moves us into another league in the business world,” Adkins said. “There are not many hotels in Florida where you can say, ‘I have 800 people that need to come in, and I need 800 rooms or 1,000 rooms in one night.’ This puts us in competition with big hotels in San Diego, Nashville, Austin, those other destinations where, historically, Tampa couldn’t accommodate that.”

The concierge desk at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18.
The concierge desk at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
The lobby of the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18.
The lobby of the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

The hotel’s lobby, rooms and restaurants feature sleek, mid-century modern furniture and decor with subtle nautical motifs throughout — a waterfall in the outdoor portico, ropes and driftwood and paintings of sails.

Among the hotel’s 519 rooms are 400-square-foot units, 1,190-square-foot suites and a 2,230-square-foot presidential suite with its own terrace, bar and meeting space. Rooms have sprawling views of the waterfront and city; some bathrooms feature glass-walled showers and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Amalie Arena. From the presidential suite, you can see Busch Gardens’ roller coasters. (The height, Adkins noted, is about the same as SheiKra.)

A guest room inside JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18.
A guest room inside JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
A reflection of downtown Tampa seen from a bathroom inside a suite at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street.
A reflection of downtown Tampa seen from a bathroom inside a suite at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
The Tampa Convention Center is seen through the window of a guest room inside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18, 2020.
The Tampa Convention Center is seen through the window of a guest room inside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

The hotel has two restaurants, both run by executive chef Joseph Pankrath, a Marriott veteran. Driftlight, the main lobby restaurant, will offer “regional farm- and ocean-to-table” seafood and other American fare. It will initially be open only for breakfast, with lunch and dinner available at a lounge area outside its doors. Six, located six floors up, is a modern poolside bistro adjacent to the spa and overlooking Garrison Channel.

A view of Driftlight inside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street pn Dec. 18.
A view of Driftlight inside the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street pn Dec. 18. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
A view from the balcony of Six, a restaurant at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18.
A view from the balcony of Six, a restaurant at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Another restaurant is in the works for the hotel’s rooftop on the 27th floor, but Adkins said it won’t open until late 2021 or early 2022.

While most group events booked at the hotel have been postponed due to the pandemic, it’s still built for weddings, business conventions and other large gatherings. There is 100,000 square feet of event space, including a 30,000-square-foot ballroom that Adkins said is the largest of any hotel on Florida’s Gulf Coast. At the moment, it’s home to the Raptors’ practice court.

Related: First look: Raptors show off Tampa training facility
A view inside the conference room dubbed the "Skybox" at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18.
A view inside the conference room dubbed the "Skybox" at the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street on Dec. 18. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
A rooftop pool with a view of Amalie Area at the JW Marriott Tapa Water Street on Dec. 18.
A rooftop pool with a view of Amalie Area at the JW Marriott Tapa Water Street on Dec. 18. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

The hotel’s spa will feature a lounge, retail boutique and 10 treatment suites. The company will soon sell $55 day packages for locals to come and use the facilities and pool.

Eventually, the JW Marriott will be joined by another hotel and residential co-branded by Marriott, the Edition, located on the other side of Amalie Arena. Created in partnership with celebrated hotelier Ian Schrager, the Edition aims to be Tampa Bay’s first five-star hotel when it opens in late 2021. The tower’s 37 luxury residences are now on sale starting at $2 million.

Related: Water Street Tampa's first luxury condos hit market starting at $2 million

The hotel will host a few small ceremonies celebrating its opening on Monday, at which point guests can check in and people can dine in its restaurants. A larger grand opening ceremony is tentatively scheduled for March.

A sky bridge connects the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street and the Tampa Marriott Water Street.
A sky bridge connects the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street and the Tampa Marriott Water Street. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]