Development project


Tampa Bay Business Journal by Larry Halstead, Staff Writer

Date: Monday, May 5, 2008, 12:00am EDT

ST. PETERSBURG — Midtown is getting a new hotel, its first. Menna Development & Management Inc. has planned an $18 million, 120-room all-suites hotel for Fifth Avenue and Dr. M.L. King Street South, near All Children’s Hospital. Whether it spurs further hotel development in Midtown depends on land availability, said Goliath Davis, deputy mayor. That’s one of the area’s development challenges, he said. But the entry of a new hotel is further evidence that the city’s prior investment in Midtown is paying off.

“What’s most appealing is that people are leaving downtown and entering Midtown with other projects,” Davis said. Job Corps recently broke ground on a new campus, and SunTrust Bank has promised a branch bank. The hotel is positioned to take advantage of the close proximity to the hospital, acting as an overflow site for Ronald McDonald House families. It plans to offer shuttle services to and from the hospital.

Ronald McDonald House has had relationships with other downtown hotels, notably the St. Petersburg Hilton, for more than 25 years, said Ed Amin, chairman of Ronald McDonald House Charities Tampa Bay. This one will be closer and better for the families, Amin said. All Children’s is also interested in using it for visiting consultants and VIPs, said Tim Strouse, VP of operations. As an all-suites hotel, it can be used for extended stay for hospital guests and patients’ families. Other demand generators are expected to be Progress Energy, University of South Florida, Poynter Institute and the Bayboro district.

Still on the drawing boards for a portion of the L-shaped site is an assisted living facility to be developed by C.R. Darst of St. Petersburg. An existing doctor’s office will remain after construction. Construction to start Groundbreaking should be within 30 days and the project is scheduled to open in mid-2009, said Anthony Menna, president of MDM. No hotel brand has been contracted yet, Menna said, but his company deals with Marriott International (NYSE: MAR) for most of its projects. It currently operates the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in St. Petersburg, a Residence Inn Village and a Marriott Courtyard Village in Oldsmar, and a Residence Inn Village in Lutz. It previously owned five other local hotels.

The new hotel will have a 3,000-square-foot meeting space, a branded wellness center, a pool and a sports court, but a restaurant is uncertain at this time. Despite the sluggish economy, there are several hotel projects in various stages in Tampa Bay. Extended stay, all-suites and select service projects are dominating the scene. It’s all part of a pipeline that was stoked a couple of years ago when the economy was strong.

Because it takes a couple of years to build a hotel from concept to completion, today’s economy isn’t seen as a deterrent to lenders, said Andrew Wharton, partner at KPMG’s Miami office. But he expects the building boom to taper off over the next two years.Select service hotels appeal to business customers who don’t need some of the big amenities like conference centers, catering and other amenities that drive up rates. They are happy with hotels that are in the right location and have business centers, wireless Internet, and limited food and beverage, Wharton said. | 813.342.2467