Downtown Tampa's economy is about to get a boost. A local investment group has purchased the old Mercantile Bank building at the corner of Ashley Drive and Kennedy Boulevard on the Hillsborough River. The group plans to turn the building into a boutique hotel.
Punit Shah is the chief operating officer for the Liberty Group based out of Clearwater.
"What I'm really excited about is this rooftop, because it's got the best views in Tampa," Shah said. "You wouldn't think about it, but look left you've got an open water view of the hospital, and you look to the right and you've got all of downtown..."
Last year, he and a partner bought the property with plans to turn it into an upscale 130-room hotel. But that's not all. He says he wants to make this a destination of sorts.
"There's going to be a real focus on the bar. And the social element of the hotel. It's not just a place where people will come to stay. It's meant to be really a neighborhood spot for people who live downtown to come and enjoy happy hour, socialize with friends, that's really what our key is here."
But the transformation won't be a simple one. This is an old bank and office complex, not exactly an ideal structure to house a hotel.
"It's a forty year old building. So we have to retrofit the building. We've got to make sure that all of our plumbing and mechanical systems fit into this space that's preexisting. So it's a lot more difficult than new construction in many senses. "
Shah estimates it will cost in the neighborhood of 15-million dollars to renovate the structure. When it's completed, the hotel will employ 40-50 workers. He believes it will funnel 100-million dollars into the local economy in the next 20 years.
He hopes to begin the project in April, with a projected completion date of April of 2014.
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