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Inside the Cordova Inn’s delayed expansion

Mark Parker

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Tommy Del Zoppo, cofounder and CEO of New Hotel Collection, at the site of the Cordova Inn's long-awaited expansion. Photo by Mark Parker.

Tommy Del Zoppo remains unphased by a series of events that have delayed the historic Cordova Inn’s long-planned expansion.

Del Zoppo, cofounder and CEO of New Hotel Collection, referred to supply-chain disruptions, soaring construction costs and interest rate spikes caused by the pandemic as black swan events due to their unexpectedness and prolonged impact. He also exuded pride for overcoming those hurdles.

Del Zoppo said the overarching goal is to provide a five-star experience for three-star prices. However, his 65-room addition to St. Petersburg’s oldest hotel will not open until late 2024.

“It’s been a little bit of a labor of love,” Del Zoppo said. “I was never really good at putting Legos together when I was a kid. So, developing and building a hotel is a birthing process.”

A rendering of the Cordova Inn expansion at 225 3rd St. N. Image: New Hotel Collection.

The New Hotel Collection (NHC) group bought the 103-year-old, 32-key Cordova Inn in December 2020. Del Zoppo and his team opened a craft coffee and cocktail bar named after the hotel’s original moniker, The Scott, inside the remodeled facility in June 2021.

The boutique hotel and coffee bar – prominently featuring local roaster Hogg Batch Coffee – quickly found success in a growing city. NHC will celebrate opening The Scott’s second location at a hotel it owns within the Harbourside Resort in Indian Rocks Beach with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

Hogg Batch, founded by St. Petersburg-based twins David and Duane Hogg, creates exclusive roasts for The Scott. “We’re always thinking about how we can provide amenities for the people staying with us,” Del Zoppo said.

Those amenities will soon increase exponentially at 253 2nd Ave. N. NHC also acquired the former Stanton Hotel and Apartments adjacent to the Cordova, and in 2021 unveiled plans for a major redevelopment.

Del Zoppo said the dilapidated building was on the verge of collapse. The site is now part of what he envisions as an “old Florida” meets “old Hollywood” facility affordable for middle-class families despite its “glamorous” features.

Del Zoppo noted that the Cordova, The Scott and St. Petersburg successfully navigated the pandemic. However, its effects repeatedly delayed expansion, and the project’s budget soared 40%.

“Things are going to start to move very quickly,” Del Zoppo pledged. “Behind the scenes, it’s a challenge every day for me and my partner.”

Tommy Del Zoppo expects construction to rapidly progress ahead of a Sept. 20 soft opening. Photo by Mark Parker.

The five-story hotel will blend Place Architecture’s new designs with the Cordova’s historical motif. The 50,400-square-foot project will feature a rooftop bar and an upscale restaurant on the ground floor.

A wraparound deck will add to the old Florida charm. “I actually think that this hotel is going to be the cornerstone of this city,” Del Zoppo said.

The new hotel cannot physically touch the Cordova due to its historic designation. A public “zen garden” will bifurcate the two facilities.

“We love people coming here (The Scott) who are not staying at the hotel,” Del Zoppo said. “Because for us, we’re just stewards of this.”

The hotelier expressed pride in keeping over 100 people employed throughout the pandemic and said staff is in place for a soft opening the late fall to early winter. Del Zoppo also credited city officials for helping his vision become reality.

The project includes remodeling the Cordova’s rooms, which NHC updated after purchasing the property. Supply chain issues, exacerbated by the hotel’s historic designation, remain.

Del Zoppo noted that new tiles and bathtubs must match the original fixtures. He also embraces the challenges. “We think that’s what makes this place different than everything else,” Del Zoppo added.

“We put a lot of money into things where we could have cut corners.”

Del Zoppo, originally from Boston, spent 30 years working on Wall Street. He and his wife visited St. Petersburg on a “beautiful” January weekend in 2015 as she considered a job offer from the Home Shopping Network (HSN).

“When I came here … I thought this was the greatest city I’ve ever been in,” Del Zoppo said. “And I ran international trading for Citibank – I was on a plane all the time.”

A narrow public “zen garden” will separate the new hotel and Cordova Inn. Photo by Mark Parker.

Del Zoppo cofounded NHC in 2017 and acquired the Indian Rocks Beach hotel. He also realized significant opportunities in downtown St. Petersburg away from Beach Drive and Central Avenue.

He expects to eventually offer a shuttle service between the city’s boutique hotels and NHC’s beachfront properties. Del Zoppo said he and his partner have also discussed building a beach club for guests.

Del Zoppo noted that hotel conglomerates continue consolidating, and he believes NHC can provide increasingly unique experiences. He is looking at additional opportunities throughout the state and plans for NHC’s portfolio to feature new Scott locations and exclusive Hogg Batch coffee.

“I think we have an understanding of the market,” Del Zoppo said. “I’m not saying we’re smarter than anyone else, but we know when something is really good.”

 

 

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1 Comment

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    John Donovan

    January 9, 2024at4:46 pm

    Excellent.

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