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Downtown Aloft hotel sets July debut

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Published:   |   Updated: February 19, 2014 at 05:43 AM

By the time fireworks fly for Independence Day, downtown Tampa will have at least one brand new boutique hotel open, maybe two.

Developers of the Aloft hotel on the river have set July 3 for their formal “soft opening” date, and have turned on the reservation system and website for the hotel. That comes as the Le Meridien hotel may open June 1, if not a few weeks before.

Both the Aloft and the Le Meridien are sub-brands of the Starwood chain of hotels. Alofts typically operates sleek, modern-style hotels with “select service,” for instance without a restaurant, but with upscale rooms and often a cocktail bar, while the Le Meridien hotels are often more expansive.

The Aloft project will likely come in close to the $20 million budget to buy and renovate the previous, empty Mercantile Bank building on the river with 130 rooms, many with balconies and suites. Room rates will fluctuate depending on off-season and tourist season rates and likely average $150 per night.

“We'll be able to open the Fourth of July holiday, and capture some of the business traveler market and the start of the school season in August,” said Punit Shah, president and chief operating officer of Liberty Group, which is teaming with Convergent Capital, which is a financial firm specializing in financing such projects.

When it opens, the Aloft will sit atop a continuing expansion of the Riverwalk through downtown, which is one of the city's premiere projects to bring more active people downtown. When the current stage of construction is complete, the Riverwalk will extend from the Curtis Hixon Park, past the Aloft, Sheraton, Convention Center, and over to Channelside and the Florida Aquarium.

There's still a bit of construction work to complete the hotel, rooftop bar and other spaces. Windows have gone up around the building, and this week contractors should wrap the ground-floor space in glass as well. In the next few weeks, developers will pick a final paint color for the exterior.

That will put the Aloft in the market just after the Epicurean hotel mostly opened a few months ago on South Howard Avenue, and the Aloft may open the same week as the Le Meridien hotel that's going into the former federal courthouse on Florida Avenue downtown that could open June 1, if not a few weeks earlier. The Le Meridien will open with just over 130 rooms with soaring ceilings, marble floors, a high-end restaurant, spa, ballroom and outdoor pool, with rooms renting at $160 to $300 depending on the season.

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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