Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa's new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

Developers of Water Street Tampa said the proposed 26-story convention hotel for the downtown Tampa development will be a JW Marriott. [Handout image]
Developers of Water Street Tampa said the proposed 26-story convention hotel for the downtown Tampa development will be a JW Marriott. [Handout image]
Published Dec. 8, 2017

TAMPA — JW Marriott, a luxury hotel brand new to Tampa, will run the new 519-room hotel that the Water Street Tampa project is building next to the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, developers announced Friday.

Construction on the 26-story hotel is expected to start in early 2018. It is expected to open in 2020, before Super Bowl LV in February 2021.

JW Marriott is a high-end Marriott brand that can be found in Miami, Orlando and Marco Island and is expected to help Tampa attract more upscale conventions.

"It's definitely a premium brand," Alex Kaptzan, vice president of convention sales at Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County's convention planning organization. "I'm expecting it to be transformational."

Here's how: So far, Tampa has done well attracting conventions held by social, military, educational, religious and fraternal groups. It's good business the city wants to keep, but these aren't necessarily big-spending groups.

Having a JW Marriott, which touts its top-shelf service, even boasting it teamed up with the Joffrey Ballet to create a training program to develop its staff's "poise and grace," will allow the city also to pursue more lucrative sectors of the convention market: pharmaceutical, corporate, insurance and financial groups.

And having the JW Marriott and Marriott Waterside together is expected to help convention recruiters book larger groups, bring in more groups, schedule overlapping events and reduce downtime at the Tampa Convention Center.

The brand aside, the size of the new hotel, plus the amount of meeting space it provides, the fact that it's teamed with another hotel run by the same company and the fact that Marriott has a worldwide booking and meeting business, will help Tampa continue to pursue both its established business and prospects that might have taken a pass on Tampa before.

"We're already poised with a roster of opportunities to go back to and say, 'Now we've got what you need,'" Kaptzan said.

In addition to building the JW Marriott, Strategic Property Partners, a joint venture between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Bill Gates' Cascade Investment, also plans to spend $40 million renovating the 719-room Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, which the company bought for $150 million in 2014.

The renovation will add eight rooms, bringing the total to 727, and remake space for events and meetings. The restaurant will be re-launched with a new operator, and a gastropub serving high-end beer and food will replace Champions Sports Bar. The project also will add 3,111 feet of meeting space at the northwest corner of the hotel along Water Street. That work is scheduled to be finished by early 2019.

When complete, the JW Marriott and Marriott Waterside will offer a combined 1,246 guest rooms and 175,000 square feet of meeting space.

"A huge addition to the hotel landscape," Tampa hotel consultant Lou Plasencia said Friday. "It's really creating a one-stop shop for meeting planners."

Along with adding 500 rooms, which is big in itself, Strategic Property Partners also is adding proportionally more meeting space per room than other cities offer, Plasencia said.

This will have a couple of effects: It will allow Tampa to pursue bigger conventions. Those will push more business not only to hotels in downtown, but also in West Shore and other areas. It also will allow both of the Marriott hotels to schedule their own meeting and event business that can take place even though there's a big, unrelated convention in Tampa at the same time.

Plasencia said the design, service and amenities package at the JW Marriott probably will put the hotel in the four to four-and-a-half star range.

"The Marriott Waterside is a very, very nice asset compared to a lot of full-service Marriotts," he said. "The JW will have to be two steps above that in order to distinguish itself from other Marriott products in the city," which include the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel and the boutique Le Méridien Hotel.

Along with the Marriott Waterside and JW Marriott hotels, Water Street Tampa also plans to build a smaller hotel that's expected to have about 150 rooms and an even more impressive package of amenities.

Developers said the JW Marriott will bring several superlatives to the city, including the highest rooftop bar and biggest hotel ballroom (30,000 square feet). The entrance will include a four-story atrium and the ground floor will have a full-service restaurant. The sixth floor will have a spa and fitness area, plus another restaurant with outdoor seating, a bar, an event lawn, a pool and sun terrace.

The goal, Strategic Property Partners CEO James Nozar said in a statement, will be "to create a one-of-a-kind hospitality experience for everyone to enjoy with dynamic outdoor amenities seamlessly connected to the Tampa Riverwalk and adjacent marina."

City Hall plans over the next several years to make $19.9 million in upgrades to the Tampa Convention Center's ballrooms, rest rooms, elevators and other building systems, plus bring in a new 10,000-square-foot seafood restaurant.

Along with the hotels, Water Street Tampa, a $3 billion project, is expected to include a new medical school building for the University of South Florida, a medical arts office building, apartment and condominium towers, a grocery store, a new home for the Museum of Science and Industry, plus ground-floor stores and restaurants in many buildings.

"Marriott International is thrilled to be part of SPP's impressive Water Street Tampa project, which will bring more people, new economic activity and cultural amenities into downtown Tampa," said Noah Silverman, the company's chief development officer for North American full-service hotels. "It's a perfect setting both for a new JW Marriott and a fully upgraded Marriott."

Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times