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St. Pete Beach to gain boutique hotel with high-end eatery

Published May 16, 2014

ST. PETE BEACH

A hotel project that stalled in 2008 soon will open as a 50-room boutique hotel combining a hip South Beach look and accents you'd find in an old Spanish castle.

With a rooftop patio, suites with glass walls, floor tiles resembling wide wooden planks, exposed cherry ceiling beams and a color scheme of orange, tan and turquoise, Hotel Zamora is like nothing else at St. Pete Beach.

"It's like that field of dreams theory. Build it and they will come," said general manager Tom Robertson. "When word gets out, it's going to be a newfound treasure."

At 3701 Gulf Blvd., the property is about three blocks north of the Loews Don CeSar Hotel, on the Intracoastal Waterway. Rooms on the third and fourth floors and the rooftop patio offer views of the Gulf of Mexico.

The hotel should open in late June or early July. A night's stay will start at $199 to $349, depending on the season. Suites that include a sitting room and sleeper sofa go for more. Local residents, expected to account for at least 30 percent of business, will be offered special rates during the off-season.

Named after an ancient Spanish city, Hotel Zamora is owned by Zamora Investment Group, with investors from New York and Tampa. When it started to rise in 2008, the bank that provided the original loan closed during the banking crisis. The property was revived from bankruptcy with an infusion of private financing about a year ago. The land beneath the property was bought for $3.5 million. Investors provided an additional $7 million to complete the hotel, according to the Real Estate Finance and Investment trade journal.

"I think we'll have a lot of local business and a lot of people from Orlando who come to our beaches," said Henry Suarez, the developer. "I think it can become a destination hotel because of its uniqueness."

The hotel will be managed by Coral Gables-based Trust Hospitality, which oversees 21 independently owned properties in the United States, the Caribbean and South America. It sits across Gulf Boulevard from a public beach access point and has a partly covered pool facing the Intracoastal.

Heavy cherry doors with big hinges and wrought-iron decor lead to rooms with vibrant colors. Guests need only wave their key in front of the lock to open their quarters.

"Being a boutique hotel, this is a great complement to the other properties on the beach. This hotel is very different than the existing resorts, with a quaint feel yet high-end service," said Robin Sollie, president of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce. "The restaurant is eagerly anticipated among the locals as it is the first high-end restaurant opening in a long time as well."

Castile, with indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the Intracoastal, will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Before coming to Hotel Zamora, chef Ted Dorsey received rave reviews at South Tampa restaurants Boca, Ciro's Speakeasy & Supper Club, and Copperfish Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar.

"We're going to try to source everything from within a 250-mile radius," said Dorsey, who is known for his farm-to-table approach. Grow boxes on the rooftop patio and a garden next to the downstairs deck will supply about 20 percent of the ingredients for the kitchen, including tomatoes, cucumbers, bamboo shoots and edible flowers. (Those edible flowers will be frozen into custom ice cubes.)

Sundays will feature a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar with fixings such as bacon and shrimp as well as a mimosa bar with fresh-squeezed juices. Guests also can order custom picnic baskets with coolers to take to the beach or boating.

The property has five boat slips and free valet parking.

For all the high-end touches of the hotel, Robertson sees families being a big part of the picture.

"Our goal is to still have a casualness," he said. "We still want kids to walk through the lobby barefooted and not feel like they can't touch anything."

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

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