Catalyze 2023: Tommy del Zoppo, New Hotel Collection
We’re asking thought leaders, business people and creatives to talk about 2023 and give us catalyzing ideas for making St. Pete a better place to live. What should our city look like? What are their hopes, their plans, their problem-solving ideas? This is Catalyze 2023.
Eight years ago, Tommy del Zoppo, a seasoned New Yorker working on Wall Street, and his wife Elyse Zaccaro, an Emmy-Award-winning producer at MTV who accepted an executive position at the Home Shopping Network, moved to the Sunshine City – and they haven’t looked back since.
“The first thing I said when I came here was, ‘how does the rest of America not know about this city?'” del Zoppo said. “And now the secret’s out – St. Pete is blinking on everyone’s radar.”
Today, del Zoppo and his team at the New Hotel Collection group have taken the reins of the Cordova Inn, a 100-year-old hotel at 253 2nd Ave., which is currently undergoing renovations and an expansion.
The New Hotel Collection bought the Neoclassical Revival architecture-style Cordova property in 2019 in a roughly $3 million deal. The group is nearing completion of renovating the 32 hotel rooms, retaining certain classic features while making significant infrastructure improvements such as a new HVAC system, plumbing and electrical work.
“What drew my attention to this hotel is the romanticization of Old Florida. It’s great to see what other hoteliers are doing, but we need to be careful to not wash away the Old Florida feel – there’s so much rich history. We were able to get the hotel, dust it off and bring it back to where it should be,” del Zoppo said.
The group recently opened a craft coffee and classic cocktail bar inside the hotel dubbed The Scott (it was the hotel’s original name, in 1921). It includes a bar and a room for a business center, and it is decked out with more than 30 photos showcasing the city’s past, curated by the St. Petersburg Museum of History.
The New Hotel Collection is also expanding the hotel’s footprint. The group, working with St. Petersburg-based RenoBoyd Construction Co. as the general contractor, have razed the adjacent Stanton Apartments and Stanton Hotel to make way for the 12,200-square-foot Cordova Inn expansion.
The new five-story building would have 62 rooms, creating a total of 50,400 square feet connected to the existing hotel, and would add more parking spaces.
The groundbreaking for the new expansion is expected to commence in January. It would be completed in the first quarter of 2024.
While del Zoppo is concentrated on the Cordova Inn as well as New Hotel Collection’s other properties – the Beachside Resort in Indian Shores, a hotel inside the Harbourside Resort in Indian Rocks Beach and the Central Hotel in Tennessee, he also wants to have an even larger role in elevating St. Petersburg.
Drawing from his experience in New York City, witnessing the use of greenspace to attract visitors and families, he believes St. Pete could replicate the same environment with its own parks.
“People pass by the park, looking up at the hi-rises and apartments, but a hidden gem is in front of them, Williams Park, which can be transformed,” he said. Del Zoppo noted how the city could model a transformation of the underutilized park space after Madison Square Park, or Bryant Park, by working collaboratively with private enterprises to bring the vision to life.
In asking what more the city could do as the area continues to grow, he said there needs to be a balance between development and ensuring new residents can secure housing within the city.
“It’s a double-edged sword – you have to get these buildings up to meet the demand, but you have to be conscious about strategic growth – where is the young workforce generation going to live? What can they afford?” he said, also acknowledging the city’s efforts to combat those challenges among others.
“I think our city is being strategic about this,” del Zoppo said. “I’m very happy to see new restaurants and businesses open on Central Avenue, allowing people to expand their businesses and have new opportunities from there to the Trop.”