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23 story hotel now under construction in downtown


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this article is about two weeks old, but its still post worthy


Embassy Suites Hotel To Break Ground Next Week

By RANDY DIAMOND [email protected]

Published: Jul 30, 2004

TAMPA - Ground will be broken Monday to begin building a 23-story Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown across from the convention center, the developer of the delayed project said Thursday. It would be the first new lodging establishment downtown in more than four years.

``It's a definite,'' said Richard Parks, vice president of WPM Construction, the hotel's developers and owners. Parks said the groundbreaking will be at 11 a.m. Monday.

WPM officials had disclosed they were building the hotel in November and said groundbreaking would occur in March. But as the spring deadline was missed, questions arose among some in Tampa's tourist industry about the project's status. Only last week at a meeting of the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association, tourism and hotel officials publicly discussed the project as a big if.

But Parks said Thursday that his company was ``intent on doing it right,'' and needed time to ensure that the project would be a success.

The hotel will be on a 1.21- acre site bounded by Franklin Street, Florida Avenue and Channelside Drive. Parks said WPM is negotiating with a restaurant company, but he could not disclose details. He said there also will be retail space.

Parks said the hotel will be connected to the convention center by an enclosed bridge, so those attending events at the convention center would not have to cross heavy traffic on Franklin Street.

He declined to say how much the hotel would cost to build but said that once opened, the establishment should have a market value of $100 million. Parks said his company doesn't keep the hotels it develops and that it plans to sell the hotel to new owners at some point, possibly even before the hotel is open. He said that WPM has 12 other projects in various stages of development in other cities, including Louisville.

The last major hotel built by the convention center was 717-room Tampa Marriott Waterside, which is the largest hotel in the Tampa area.

Hotels in the Tampa area have said that 2004, so far, is the best year they have experienced since before economic downturn in 2001 and the Sept. 11 attacks. Through May, hotels in Hillsborough County had an overall 71.9 percent occupancy rate, compared with 62.5 percent for all of 2003 and 62.2 percent for all of 2002, show statistics from Smith Travel Service, which tracks room occupancy.

Still, the number of rooms booked this year for future conventions through 2009 is down 9.2 percent from the previous year, officials said Thursday at a meeting of the Tampa Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But John Moors, administrator of convention facilities and tourism for Tampa, said he expects short-term bookings will help fill in the gap.

Reporter Randy Diamond can be reached at (813) 259-8144.


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