‘Pink Palace’ project on table

skennedy@bradenton.comAugust 11, 2011 

BRADENTON -- Bradenton officials plan a public hearing next week focusing on renovation of the city’s most prominent eyesore: the formerly glamorous Manatee River Hotel.

Two separate resolutions concerning the now-vacant “Pink Palace” hotel are slated for council consideration, according to city officials at a Wednesday workshop meeting at City Hall.

One resolution designates the property at 309 10th St. W. a “brownfield area” for the purpose of environmental site rehabilitation and economic redevelopment, it said.

A second resolution recommends Widewater Bradenton LLC or an affiliated company be approved as a qualified “brownfield business” and affirms that the project site is located in a designated “brownfield area,” according to the resolution.

With council approval, property owner The Widewaters Group Inc. can apply for state tax incentives based on cleanup of minor soil contamination on the grounds.

One of the resolutions lists the .85-acre site’s “contamination potential”: four underground heating oil storage tanks that were removed in 2006, hydraulic fluid used in the older original elevators and contamination originating from former gas stations on adjacent properties.

The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company hopes to transform the decrepit building into a gleaming Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel. The project has an estimated value of about $15 million.

However, a gap of several million dollars still exists between the company and the city’s Downtown Development Authority, which is trying to fashion an acceptable financial package.

One of the resolutions noted that the purpose of the state’s Brownfield Redevelopment Act is to “encourage the redevelopment and the voluntary cleanup of real property where the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by actual or perceived environmental contamination.”

Historical sources indicate that the property has been developed since at least 1911, but it initially had homes on it, one resolution said.

The hotel was built in the mid-1920s by the Van Sweringer Co., of Cleveland, at a cost of $850,000.

It was a favorite of the wealthy set but closed in the 1960s, reopening as a senior citizens residence renamed the Riverpark Hotel. The residence closed in 2005, and the building has remained vacant since.

In other action, city council members discussed which employees should be eligible under the city’s insurance plan for subsidized health care when they retire.

City Clerk Carl Callahan suggested that the city set the bar higher than it currently is, stipulating that only those who reach age 62 and have been employed 20 years with the city should be eligible.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.

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