Government officials aren't exactly synonymous with cutthroat negotiators when they dole out incentives to lure businesses to town.
The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, however, recently turned that premise upside down. The DDA reached an agreement Oct. 28 with Syracuse, N.Y.-based Widewaters Group, a firm with bold ambitions to renovate an old hotel in the heart of downtown.
The city will provide Widewaters with $1 million in incentives and roughly $1.5 million in tax rebates. Widewaters, for its part, will turn the 86-year-old building, known locally as the Pink Palace, into a 115-room Hampton Inn & Suites — a $17 million project. (See Business Review, April 29.)
Widewaters, which has built $1 billion worth of commercial real estate over the last 30 years, including 20 hotels, initially sought an incentive package worth $4.5 million. It later dropped its request to $3.8 million.
City officials, though, held firm. “We would all certainly like to see something done there,” DDA Vice Chairman Greg Green told the Business Review earlier this year. “But we can't spend ourselves into a negative position like the federal government can.”
After several months of pushback, Widewaters took the deal. “We didn't get everything we wanted from an incentive standpoint,” Widewaters official Brian Long tells Coffee Talk. “But we understand there's a limit to what they can do. They had to balance what we had to do with other projects in the future.”
Of course, that kind of fiscal logic isn't always prevalent in government. (See: publicly financed sports stadiums.)
Long, meanwhile, is happy to have negotiations done, so the firm can focus on the actual project. Construction is expected to begin by next spring, and work, which includes a lobby restoration, new windows and several historic-style features, could be done by early 2013. At least 40% of the rooms will be suites with kitchens, says Long.
The building, officially the Manatee River Hotel, is on 10th Street West. It has been vacant since 2005. Widewaters bought the property out of foreclosure in 2009.