TAMPA — Developers are poised to launch construction this week on one of Ybor City's biggest new projects in years — a four-story, $50 million boutique hotel being created by a Chicago company that seeks out neighborhoods rich in color and character.
In Ybor City, it found just what it wants.
The 176-room hotel is planned for the 1400 block of E Seventh Avenue. It's mostly a parking lot now but is loaded with local history.
A couple of buildings on the block once were home to the Czar nightclub, and before that the Pleasuredome, Tracks and El Goya, a disco and gay bar famous for its huge dance floor and over-the-top drag shows.
Decades before, the block also was home to the El Dorado, the notorious gambling house and bordello run by Tampa crime boss Charlie Wall.
Go even farther back, and history arrives at one of Tampa's oldest restaurants, Las Novedades. In 1898, the restaurant was the scene — or so the legend goes — of "the Charge of the Yellow Rice Brigade," when a detachment of Teddy Roosevelt's 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry rode their horses into the dining room shortly before heading off to fame on San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War.
"Ybor City kind of has it all from our perspective," said Mario Tricoci, the CEO and co-founder of the Aparium Hotel Group, which will manage the hotel. "It's close to the urban core. Lots to celebrate. Tons of soul."
Plus, he said, there's the chance to work with a strong local team that includes Ybor City investor Darryl Shaw, the CEO of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, the CEO of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, as well as the Capitano, Garcia and Ellison families, investor Alex Walter, Alfonso Architects, Batson-Cook Construction and EWI Construction.
Tricoci and luxury hotel veteran Kevin Robinson, who had already worked together on the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, founded Aparium in 2011. It has since opened 11 hotels, with several more in the pipeline in cities like New Orleans, Minneapolis, Detroit, Memphis and Denver.
"We look at important markets across the United States that are under-served, at least from our perspective, by any real authentic or true hospitality experiences," Tricoci. Tampa, like many cities, is chock-full of hotels at various levels of service, but, generally, he said, they're places where "you don't know if you're in Tampa or Cincinnati or Detroit or L.A. They just all sort of look the same because they're branded. They don't have soul."
The Ybor City hotel will include an interior courtyard with a pool, a full service restaurant and balconies that overlook both the street and the courtyard, echoing Ybor City's Cuban architectural influences. Tricoci could not predict what the room rates would be, but, given the current hotel supply, he would expect it to enter the market as the rate leader — that is, the hotel with the highest average daily rates over the calendar year.
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Construction on the Ybor hotel, which does not yet have a name, is scheduled to kick off Thursday with a ground-breaking. If all goes well, the new hotel could open toward the end of 2019.
Contact Richard Danielson at email@example.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times