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Aloft gets off the ground in downtown Tampa

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Published:   |   Updated: July 17, 2014 at 06:16 AM

For starters, the name of the hotel is pronounced “Ah-LOFT,” as in to take flight into the sky, not “A loft,” as in a cool loft apartment in Brooklyn.

That’s just one small factoid Tampa can get to know about its newest boutique hotel to open downtown, right at the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Boulevard.

Also, there is a cocktail bar — a very large one — and essentially the entire lobby counts as a cocktail bar. Music. Glittering lights. Nightclub-style lounging couches.

The hotel is already filling up for some days this summer and is more than 90 percent full for next Friday with a group of students sitting for bar examinations.

“Not a bad way to open a hotel,” said Punit Shah, president of the Liberty Group that developed the hotel along with Convergent Capital. “We’re very excited to bring something like this to the area, particularly because there hasn’t been anything quite like this here, for us as well as friends and family visiting the area.”

Thursday counts as the “soft opening” for the 130-room hotel, when guests can stay the night and plunge in the riverside pool, though they might run into the occasional contractor finishing up a project. A formal grand opening party is scheduled for later in the month. Already, exterior LED lights on the building subtly shift the color of the whole structure, almost making the building a self-lit sculpture in the vein of the Tampa Museum of Art’s changing hues at night.

Much of the ethos will be nightclub life, with “Martini Mondays” from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., then female D.J.’s on “Diva Thursdays” and “Bloody Mary Sundays” from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Besides Aloft, Liberty Group and Convergent Capital have made waves lately in Tampa by jousting with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Port Tampa Bay for control of Channelside Bay Plaza.

While that case has been winding its way through court, the Liberty/Convergent pair have been either developing or buying hotels around the Southeast. The Aloft in downtown Tampa represents one of their more ambitious projects, renovating the former Mercantile Bank building by shoring up its riverside foundation, installing all new mechanical systems and building out hotel rooms from what originally had been a computer services building.

Aloft marks the third new boutique hotel to come on the market in the central Tampa area. First, the Epicurean hotel opened in South Tampa late last year with 137 rooms. Built from the ground up, the hotel has a food-theme so pervasive that there’s even a Culinary Classroom where guests can watch and learn from chefs in a Food Network-style mini kitchen stadium.

Second came the Le Meridien hotel, built into a lavishly renovated former federal courthouse on Florida Avenue downtown that opened last month. That hotel ranks as a luxury spot, run under the Starwood hotel brand umbrella, with 130 rooms and a spacious central restaurant called Bizou Brasserie.

More hotels are on the way, as Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is in the early planning stages of a large new hotel near the Forum where his hockey team plays.

As for staying at the Aloft, developers say room rates should range between $170 and $300 a night, depending on the season.

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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