Bradenton City Council favors deal for ‘Pink Palace’

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 27, 2011 

BRADENTON -- The Bradenton City Council Wednesday approved in concept a deal with developers to restore downtown’s historic “Pink Palace.”

The council directed its attorney to draw up a formal development agreement with The Widewaters Group, Inc., a Syracuse, N.Y., company that hopes to transform the 1920s-era eyesore into a glamorous Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel.

The council expected to take an official vote on the agreement at a later date, officials said.

Tuesday, after more than a year of negotiation, the city’s Downtown Development Authority made the company a formal offer, dangling $1 million-plus in incentives in an effort to kick-start the project.

Construction would cost $15 million or so, and could start as soon as next spring, said Brian Long, Widewaters’ director of development. “It sounds like a great opportunity, coming from an acclaimed ‘smaller government,’ ‘lower taxes’ guy,” said Councilman Bemis Smith during a meeting at City Hall.

Smith explained that, although times are economically tough now, it’s important to lay the groundwork for future growth.

Other council members were equally positive.

“I am very comfortable with this,” said Councilman Patrick Roff.

Long said after the meeting that he was “very encouraged at the positive steps that have been taken in the last two days.”

Long planned to take the offer back to his company to evaluate, but he did not think it would be a drawn-out process.

“I would like to react to the DDA’s proposal very quickly,” he said.

The DDA’s offer included $1 million in upfront payments, 15 years of tax rebates that could total more than $1.5 million, and streetscape improvements estimated to cost between $80,000 and $110,000, The Herald reported Wednesday.

The building, which has been vacant several years, is located at 309 10th St. W.

Its renovation is considered a potential boon to downtown Bradenton because it is projected to draw about 50,000 guests annually whose extended economic impact is estimated at $2.5 million.

The project also could generate 120 construction jobs, at least 35 permanent jobs, $450,000 annually in tourist tax revenue, $50,000 annually in school tax revenue and $30,000 in annual sales tax revenue.

The former Manatee River Hotel sports a Mediterranean Revival architectural style, and is considered among Bradenton’s largest and best-preserved historic structures.

Among its unique features are the lobby, which retains its original grand staircase, fixtures and registration desk; and an elegant formal dining room with a vaulted ceiling and Mexican tile floor.

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

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