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Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport Westshore sells for $21.25 million

TAMPA — Real estate investor Ben Mallah has purchased the Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport Westshore for $21.25 million in what he called a "no-brainer'' of a deal.

Not only is Mallah getting a 261-room hotel near where the state plans a regional transportation hub, the hotel will soon be under the more upscale Marriott banner.

Sheraton is part of the Starwood group, which is being acquired by Marriott International in a $14.4 billion deal that will create the world's largest hotel company.

Originally built as an Embassy Suites, the Sheraton at 4400 W Cypress St. has a Spanish-style facade, soaring atrium and landscaped garden with waterfall.

"My God, it's wonderful,'' Mallah said Thursday after closing on the purchase. "It needs to be spruced up, but it's a great hotel.'' He said he plans to invest at least $2 million in renovations over the next few years.

Within the past year, Mallah has sold several other hotels, including the Best Western Bay Harbor on the Courtney Campbell Causeway for $34.5 million. He said he took that money to buy the Sheraton in West Shore and a Sheraton in Orlando, utilizing a so-called 1031 exchange that allows an investor to sell a property, reinvest the proceeds in a new property and defer all capital gain taxes.

"So basically I traded these two major Sheratons for that one Best Western, and Starwood is being sold to Marriott, which is a step up,'' he said.

Also increasing the value of the Tampa hotel, he said, is its proximity to Charley's Steak House and the DoubleTree by Hilton Tampa Airport-Westshore hotel. In January, the Florida Department of Transportation bought that property for what it said would become "the central hub for public and private local and regional transit services.''

Both the restaurant and 489-room DoubleTree will remain open for the time being but eventually will be knocked down.

That will leave Mallah's new hotel "alone next door,'' he said cheerfully.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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