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  1. Business

Westin Harbour Island hotel in Tampa sold to Chicago firm

TAMPA — A Chicago private investment firm has bought the Westin Harbour Island for an undisclosed sum and plans a "very robust renovation.''

Opened in 1987, the hotel has 299 rooms, 17,432 square feet of meeting space, a heated outdoor pool and water views.

Tampa's hotel market "has been strong, so people are interested in the market in addition to all the other good news — job growth, excitement about what's planned for the Channelside district,'' said Daniel Peek, senior managing director of HFF, which arranged the financing. "Those factors drive the interest and also the reurbanization. We have more people living downtown than historically so all that helps.''

Plus, the bay area will host several events expected to draw thousands of visitors, including the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship.

The Westin sale is the third transaction involving a major, full-service downtown Tampa hotel in the past two years. In July, HFF also was involved in the sale of the Hilton Tampa Downtown for $110 million. That was second only to the nearly $200 million that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, created by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, paid for the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in 2014.

All three hotels are within walking distance of the $2 billion mixed-used office, retail and multi-housing project planned by a Vinik-Cascade-backed real estate firm.

Peek would not disclose the Westin's sale price — the deed had yet to be recorded as of Monday morning — but said it will approach that of the Hilton when the costs of the "very robust'' renovation are included.

The Westin's seller was Blackstone, the giant private equity firm, and the buyer is Walton Street Capital, which has invested or committed to invest more than $7.5 billion in more than 300 separate transactions, according to an HFF news release. The Westin will be managed by HEI Hotels & Resorts, a Connecticut-based hospitality investment firm that owns and operates hotels throughout the United States under such brand names as Marriott, Starwood, Hilton and Hyatt.

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

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