Oldsmar becoming home for more overnight travelers

Tampa Bay Business Journal by Aja Whitaker, Staff Writer

Date: Monday, August 4, 2003

OLDSMAR — Two years ago the city had one hotel that offered slightly more than a dozen rooms. Now the city offers two major hotel chains, and preparations are under way for two more hotels.A 90-room Courtyard by Marriott opened earlier this year and the owner, Clearwater-basedMenna Development & Management Inc., already has submitted plans for a 80-room hotel.

City officials have approved the site plan submitted for a Marriott Residence Inn, expected tobreak ground later this year.Menna Development views the location in the Oldsmar Town Center District, adjacent to itsexisting property on the corner of Tampa Road and St. Petersburg Drive, as the ideal gatewaybetween Tampa and Pinellas County, said Reggie Termulo, director of development andconstruction.

“Our market studies determine an extended stay type of hotel would also do well there and the growth of the city and the businesses around it will support a hotel of that nature,” Termulo said. All rooms at the estimated $7.5 million, 4-story Residence Inn will feature kitchenettes and separate sitting areas in efficiency, one- and two-bedroom suites. Menna Development is not concerned about future market saturation or competition between its properties.

“Occupancy has been high and steady, and we have been pleased with that so we are not afraid of one hotel cannibalizing the other,” Termulo said. “The Courtyard is more a shorter-term stay guest hotel, and the Residence Inn is geared more toward extended stays. They are two different niches.”

Meanwhile, hotelier Paul Simone, brother-in-law of Menna Development’s president, is working on a hotel of his own. Owners of the city’s first major chain, the 88-room Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites that opened in 2001, submitted a conceptual site plan for a possible Hilton Garden Inn. The project was announced earlier this year and was approved by the city council but has not yet received final development approval, said Greg Scoville, community development director for the city.

Simone Development & Management Co. is set to develop a $28-million project that will include medical office space and a restaurant, a block away from his existing hotel, said Simone, the firm’s president. Expansion of Nielsen Media Research Inc. into the market was a catalyst for the project that some view as a bad decision given current market conditions, he said.

“If I put in a Hilton Garden Inn, that puts in the three big flags, and I don’t have to worry about anyone else coming in, he said. “Along with my partners, we all know it is a long-term investment, and we are coming in with a lot of cash equity. We aren’t going to finance a lot, so that will the ease up the pain.”

Simone said he is still negotiating with the Hilton Garden Inn brand holders to finalize his naming application and to determine the exact size and design for the hotel. A conference room to accommodate 200 is certain. There will be no rooms on the first floor of the 5-story hotel that will offer 84 rooms and 32 executive suites.Simone expects to break ground on the project in October or November and open in January 2005.

The hotel business is segmented and the existing and future hotels market to different audiences, said Kevin Gartland, president and chief executive officer of the Oldsmar Upper Tampa Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The two that are on the ground right now both say they are doing very well and exceeded the occupancy expectations they had for the first two years,” Gartland said. Gartland hopes the new projects will spawn additional interest from the hotel industry that will coincide with economic development efforts to draw more business.

“If both of these projects come to fruition you will see a variety of different hotel and property types which is the right way to go,” he said. Hotels have benefited from the business activity, hiring, and people coming in for training.”