Grand Central’s new hotel, Tru by Hilton, takes extra steps to open during a pandemic

The first guest is scheduled to check into the new Tru by Hilton in the Grand Central District on Friday.

Because of COVID-19, the hotel is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of that guest and others to follow, said Josiah Gross, vice president of development for Menna Development & Management Inc., the Clearwater company that developed the project.

Hand sanitizer is everywhere and there are plastic shield barriers in place at the grab-and-go food and beverage station in the lobby.

“Once we get open there will be a constant circulation of sanitation with the arcade games, with the breakfast buffet. Someone will be coming through every few minutes and sanitizing everything. That’s a little different than what we’re used to, but we’ll do our best to make sure everyone is as safe as they can be,” Gross said.

The 131-room, seven-story hotel at 1650 Central Ave. in the Grand Central District is one of the larger development projects to open since the pandemic began.

Related story: First look at the new hotel in St. Pete’s Grand Central District

While travel and tourism declined significantly in the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak, industry reports now are showing a gradual rebound.

“It’s going to be a slower ramp up than we’re used to but we are getting reservations for July. I think people do just want to get out and they can still do it safely,” Gross said.

Tru by Hilton features smaller but more efficiently designed rooms. The St. Petersburg hotel is one of the first in the brand to provide “connected rooms,” turning every room into a smart room. Guests can use their Hilton Honors app to unlock the door and to control the television and thermostat.  It also can be used to log into personal accounts for streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. The guest’s log-in will be cleared from the system at checkout.

With a focus on sustainability, the bathrooms feature dispensers for soap and lotion instead of individual paper-wrapped products or plastic bottles.

There’s also a big emphasis on the local community with a display of local restaurants and entertainment venues by the elevators, and a designated area in the grab-and-go food and beverage counter for locally made products.

See more features of the Tru by Hilton in the gallery below.

Tru by Hilton

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Hilton will open the Tru by Hilton at 1650 Central Ave. officially on July 3.

Margie Manning

Margie started her journalism career as a radio news reporter in St. Louis, before putting down her microphone and picking up a pen to work at the St. Louis Business Journal. Unable to resist the call of warm weather and beaches, Margie took an entrepreneurial detour to run an ice cream shop in Treasure Island with her husband. Before joining the Catalyst, Margie spent 14 years at the Tampa Bay Business Journal where she wrote about business successes, failures and the exciting world of innovation and start-ups. Her writing coaches are Bonnie the Dog and Coffee the Cat, joined recently by a new edition, Jack the Cat. Margie can be contacted at

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