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St. Pete gives thumbs up for new hotel in Grand Central District

Margie Manning

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The planned Tru by Hilton hotel as seen from Central Avenue

A seven-story, 131-room hotel with one of the hottest brands in the business is expected to open by the end of the first quarter 2020 in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District.

The City Council, acting in its capacity as the Community Redevelopment Agency, voted Thursday to approve plans for the project at 1650 Central Ave., deciding that it was consistent with the Intown West Redevelopment Plan. The final building plans must be reviewed and approval is subject to additional review by the CRA staff, city documents said.

The hotel will be a “Tru by Hilton” property, a brand initially designed to appeal to millennials that has become one of the fastest-growing brands in the hotel business, said Josiah Gross, vice president of development for Menna Development & Management Inc. in Clearwater, the developer on the project.

“It seems to attract a broad spectrum [of guests], anyone who wants to explore the city and doesn’t want to live in their room,” Gross said.

With a growing number of breweries, restaurants and other attractions, “We felt this area needed a select service hotel,” he said.

Construction equipment is on site now at 1650 Central Ave, the planned site for a Tru by Hilton hotel

The property is just a couple of blocks from the Tropicana Field site, where the city plans a major redevelopment, with or without the existing baseball stadium.

“Whatever happens, we welcome it either way,” Gross said. “Either way, the way St. Pete is growing we’re in a great spot, on the frontier heading west.”

The goal of the Intown West Redevelopment Plan is to capitalize on the opportunities generated by Tropicana Field, and the proposed development does that, city documents said.

“The building is urban in scale with pedestrian oriented street level features, including the provision of storefront window systems consistent with other urban buildings, and streetscaping, including planters and street trees, that will accent the building,” said a summary of the project prepared for the council members who make up the CRA.

Construction costs are pegged at $6.5 million. Menna is still working on a total budget for the project, he said.

The ground floor of the hotel will include the lobby and retail space, with the hotel lobby entrance from 17th Street South and the entrances to the retail space from Central Avenue.

The second floor is devoted to parking, with 43 spaces on that level. Including surface spaces, there will be a total of 47 parking spaces, which is 14 more than the required 33 spaces, the city said.

The third floor will house the office, laundry, fitness facility, lounge, an outdoor pool deck and 12 hotel rooms. The fourth floor will have 39 hotel rooms, with floors five through seven consisting of 27 hotel rooms on each floor.

Menna’s last project in St. Pete was the 119-suite Staybridge Suites in the Innovation District, which opened in February 2014. “We’ve been wanting to work in the area since then,” Gross said. “We love St. Pete.”

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