A little more than a year after buying and refurbishing one of the oldest hotels in downtown St. Petersburg, the owners of The Cordova Inn are preparing to nearly triple the size of their historic property.
New Hotel Collection, the owners of The Cordova Inn on 2nd Avenue North, purchased two adjacent buildings — the Stanton Apartments and the Stanton Hotel — that will be torn down and rebuilt as an addition to the existing building. Construction is set to begin in February with the demolition of the two buildings.
When completed, the Cordova will grow from 12,200 square feet to 53,700 square feet and will have 95 rooms, up from 32.
The plan is for the project to be completed by late-2023, but one of the company’s partners, Tommy Del Zoppo, envisions, possibly optimistically, a 4th of July grand opening party next year.
Del Zoppo is the chief investment officer of Largo-based New Hotel. He founded the company in 2017 with travel industry veterans Alex Hodges and Ron New. In addition to the Cordova, the company currently owns two other hotels in Pinellas County and one in Tennessee.
It bought the Cordova in December 2020 for $3 million. It then paid $3.5 million for the two adjacent properties on 3rd Street North last year. It is not releasing the cost of the construction project. The company recently completed two rounds of refinancing totaling $27.5 million to help with future growth.
Del Zoppo says one of the most important aspects of the addition is it maintains the feeling and spirit of the of Cordova Inn.
When talking about feeling and spirit, Del Zoppo means the vision he has for the Cordova to be a community gathering spot, a destination both for locals out for an afternoon walk or travelers in town to see a local museum.
To help make that happen, the addition is going to include a restaurant, a Zen garden open to the public and a rooftop bar. These will supplement The Scott, an existing watering hole inside the lobby of the Cordova that carries specialty drinks and coffees.
“If you look at the renderings that we have, it absolutely stays within the core of the boutique kind of hotel that we’re trying to stay with,” Del Zoppo says.
He adds, “You’re going to have this space that is not just a hotel but continues with the theme of what we said in the beginning, when we talked about this place, that we want it to be open to the community. You don’t have to stay here to come and have a drink or have a coffee.”
Del Zoppo talks a lot about community and the importance of making his hotel an integral part of St. Petersburg. It's a nod to the city’s past, its present and its future.
But New Hotel, and the previous owners of the Stanton Hotel and Stanton Apartments, faced some community blowback last year when residents were asked to vacate the low-cost apartments prior to the sale. Del Zoppo says the previous owners were responsible for that and New Hotel was not involved with asking people to leave. Regardless, the company did contribute to a fund to help relocate the residents and to find better housing, he says.
A company spokesman declines to disclose the amount contributed to the fund.
“We thought that, again, that it would go toward being part of the community. We wanted to make sure that we were providing people with opportunities to find other housing,” he says.
“The other issue is, that building, mechanically, is past its expiration date. We did an independent mechanical report, which is on file with the city, but that building is not safe. It’s falling down.”
As part of the expansion of the hotel, the long porch that now faces 2nd Avenue will be elongated and the column arches that run along the front of the property will be replicated across most of the facade. The idea, Del Zoppo says, is to create a singular, continuous property that maintains the historical signatures of the Cordova and old St. Petersburg.
But it’s not that simple.
The Cordova Inn was built in 1921. It was originally named the Hotel Scott before being renamed two years later. In 2001, it became the Pier Hotel and then reverted back to its current moniker in 2014. The National Register of Historic Places includes Cordova as part of the Downtown St. Petersburg Historic District.
The city, in its 2004 application for the designation, wrote that the hotel was one reason why the area should be recognized and that it “reflects the evolving character of downtown hotels after the First World War.”
The historical designation, however, means the existing exterior of the Cordova must remain untouched.
So, what’s being built is actually a completely new building that will take on the look and feel of the original but with modern touches. The old property and new property will not physically touch one another, but will be connected by open spaces, courtyards and walkways.
The new addition incorporates many elements from the original and was inspired by the original. But when you look at the renderings, you see the differences.
One major change is the addition actually looks like three separate buildings rather than one. Tim Clemmons, a principal at Place Architecture, the St. Petersburg firm which designed the addition, says that was done to approximate the feeling one got walking in downtown St. Petersburg in the 1920s.
This wasn’t a time of monolithic buildings taking up a city block that you sped by in your car. The buildings were smaller, with three or four sitting on a block. These made city blocks more pleasing to the eye of pedestrians who saw something new every few hundred feet.
Despite that, there will be many of the exterior elements that will tie the new, larger Cordova Inn to the original.
“We tried to do something that we think is, at least our goal is, the great-granddaughter of the hotel,” Clemmons says. “And you can see they’re related, even if it’s three generations removed.”