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Business Observer Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 10 months ago

Pink Reign

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New ownership is bringing a bevy of ambitious changes — $50 million worth — to St. Petersburg's storied Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Why it matters: The Vinoy, a downtown St. Petersburg landmark hotel property, is undergoing $50 million in renovations.

Don't call it a comeback. That's old news. Don't even call it a renovation or redevelopment.

Call it a “reimagining.” But not too much — it's still pink.

The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is emblematic of the Sunshine City's resurgence, a transformation from a “God's Waiting Room” reputation to one of the most dynamic, buzzed-about cities in the Southeast.

Built in 1925, but abandoned to neglect and decay in 1974, the Vinoy reopened in 1992 thanks to a $93 million injection of capital. Now, owner RLJ Lodging Trust, which acquired the iconic resort in July, has invested another $50 million into the property, at 501 Fifth Ave. N.E. in downtown St. Petersburg's waterfront district.

The multiyear upgrade process is highlighted by an extensive overhaul of one of the resort's two hotel towers, where interior spaces, including all 102 guest rooms, have been remade. The resort took a chance by closing the tower for three months, but is confident the results will be worth the risk.

The changes are intended to bring a “sense of whimsy” to the hotel, says Vibeke Sansone, director of sales and marketing. “We wanted it to feel like a curated home,” she adds.

To deliver on that ambition, the hotel developed a decor inspired by pop art, art deco and different motifs — if you've ever wanted to sleep in a bed crowned by a headboard made of faux alligator skin, you're in luck. Each room contains unique furniture and fixtures — some, such as nightstands, are even mismatched intentionally.

The changes go beyond the surface level. The rooms were also remodeled and reconfigured to allow for upgrades desired by modern travelers, such as larger showers and vanities, as well as oversized closets.

The new year will also bring a new restaurant to the Vinoy: Paul's Landing, being built on what was formerly a space used for events that overlooks the resort's pool deck. Mark Heimann, director of restaurant operations at the Vinoy, says the idea for the restaurant arose in 2014, when he began to collaborate with St. Petersburg-based 3 Daughters Brewing on a signature craft beer to serve at the resort.

Paul's Landing takes its name from William Paul, a carpenter who, in the 1850s, worked with the U.S. Navy to develop the land where the Vinoy now sits. Paul also planted an orange grove on the site and helped build what today is regarded as St. Petersburg's first pier. The restaurant will feature glass walls so diners can enjoy sweeping views of Tampa Bay and downtown St. Pete.

Vinoy management expects the re-imagining process — which will also include upgrades to the resort's tennis courts, salon and day spa, as well as a new parking structure — to be complete by the end of the year.

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