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Business Observer Friday, Jul. 31, 2020 1 month ago

Luxury brand Ritz-Carlton is expected to make "a real statement" with Tampa condos

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Hotal chain will put its name on a new Related Group residential development, a potent signal of the city’s growing status
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

           Sarasota and Naples along the Gulf Coast have each had the brand for two decades or more, but much larger Tampa has been seemingly ignored by one of the premier luxury lodging arms of Marriott International Inc. — until now.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. says it will put its flag on a condominium project that Miami-based Related Group intends to develop on Bayshore Boulevard outside downtown.

As designed by Miami’s Arquitectonia, The Ritz-Carlton Residences Tampa would debut in 2024 with a 27-story condo tower and 12 townhomes containing 102 units. A second phase of the roughly $400 million project would contain another 27-story tower with 80 units and begin construction in roughly 2028.

“Tampa is a much larger market than either Sarasota or Naples, obviously, so it was somewhat surprising to us that the Ritz-Carlton brand wasn’t represented,” says Mike Hammon, a Related senior vice president.

“We felt that Ritz-Carlton was a perfect fit for the market, and when we approached them, Tampa really sold itself – especially with such a beautiful site on Bayshore Boulevard.”

For Related, a 40-year-old firm that has become one of Miami’s largest residential developers, the Ritz-Carlton Residences would mark its first fee-simple project in Tampa, following a series of multifamily rental projects such as the 21-story Icon Harbour Island downtown and the 400-unit Manor Riverwalk.

Related’s affordable housing division also is working to rehabilitate hundreds of units in the 150-acre West River development together with the Tampa Housing Authority.

Hospitality analysts say the twin-towered project sends a clear signal about Tampa’s evolution as an urban center and will likely lead to other luxury brands establishing a presence in the city.

“There’s a huge unmet demand for luxury brands in the Tampa Bay market,” says Lou Plasencia, founder and CEO of The Plasencia Group, a nationally recognized hospitality developer and consultant based in Tampa. “The Ritz-Carlton flag will be an absolute positive. It makes a real statement.”

COURTESY PHOTO -- Lou Plasencia is the CEO of Tampa-based The plasencia Group, a nationally recognized hospitality developer and connsultancy

The Ritz-Carlton Sarasota, by contrast, is a resort-style property with a 225-room hotel, 130 attached condominiums and amenities that include a nearby Lido Key beach club and an 18-hole golf club in Lakewood Ranch. It opened in 2001.

In Naples, Ritz-Carlton operates a pair of hotels – the 295-room Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort at 2600 Tiburon Drive and the 450-room, waterfront Ritz-Carlton Naples, at 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road. It debuted in 1985.

Ritz-Carlton’s decision to enter the Tampa market also comes as parent Marriott International has been expanding its lodging properties in the city.

Most notably, the company has put its JW Marriott premium brand and its Edition luxury offering on a pair of new hotels being developed by Strategic Property Partners – a joint venture between Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment LLC – within the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development.

The five-star Edition project also will contain “branded” residences that will provide buyers with exclusive amenities and services.

Analysts says Cascade Investment may have balked at the idea of locating a Ritz-Carlton in Water Street because Gates also owns a significant portion of the Four Seasons Hotel chain, a direct Ritz-Carlton competitor.

Ritz-Carlton officials says they were drawn to the Bayshore Boulevard site because of the water views it will offer and because of the strength and experience Related brings to the project.

In all, Related has developed more than 100,000 condos and apartment units valued in excess of $40 billion. The company also has more than 70 additional projects in its pipeline.

“Tampa made a lot of sense to us, as it’s a growing and dynamic market with a flourishing economy,” says Dana Jacobsohn, a Marriott senior vice president of mixed-use developments.

“The site is incredible and will offer tremendous water views, and we’re finding that stand-alone residential projects without a hotel component attached to them are becoming increasingly popular,” Jacobsohn adds.

“Travelers to our hotels are finding the lifestyle that Ritz-Carlton provides to be very appealing on an everyday basis.”

The company manages 11 such stand-alone residential properties currently in Miami, Baltimore and elsewhere. Another 10 projects – some carrying the JW Marriott or St. Regis flags – are planned in Boston, Dubai, Turkey, Egypt and elsewhere, says Amanda Altree, a Marriott senior director of residential brand management and marketing.

“People know what Ritz-Carlton stands for; that hasn’t changed much perception-wise over the years, and there’s no one better at delivering consistency than Marriott,” says Kent Schwarz, an executive vice president who specializes in the hospitality sector with commercial real estate brokerage firm Colliers International, in Tampa.

COURTESY PHOTO -- Kent Schwarz specializes in hsspitality projects at Colliers International, in Tampa.

Schwarz agrees that Ritz-Carlton likely won’t attach its brand to a Tampa hotel anytime soon.

“Downtown Tampa has enough of a new supply of hotel rooms for the time being,” Schwarz says.

If Tampa officials approve a required zoning change for Related during a virtual meeting scheduled for Sept. 28, the developer could open a sales office for its project as soon as the following month.

A Related entity acquired the 4.65-acre property, which since 1974 has been the site of the 172-unit Bay Oaks apartments, for $26.25 million in June 2019, according to Hillsborough County property records.

Its Ritz-Carlton Residences will contain amenities such as a mini-spa, a fitness center, clubhouse, swimming pool and a “unique” amenity that could be either a demonstration kitchen or tennis courts, Hammon says.

New York-based architectural firm Meyer Davis has been tapped to oversee the project’s interior designs of the units, which will all face the water and range from 2,300 square feet to 5,000 square feet. Townhomes will contain about 3,100 square feet of space.

Prices are expected to range from $1.7 million to $5 million, Hammon says.

The Residences also will offer concierge, valet and other maintenance services and, in a nod to the pandemic, “contactless” elevators, special lighting and automatic disinfectants.

“With Ritz-Carlton, you know the level of service you’re going to get,” Hammon says. “It’s legendary.”

Like Plasencia, Hammon contends that having Ritz-Carlton in Tampa will usher in a wave of similar upscale brands.

“We think as a result of this project Tampa will see a number of high-end and luxury brands come to the market,” he says.

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