Pink Palace deal another step forward

October 30, 2011 

Hallelujah!

Word that the Pink Palace will receive its long overdue renovation is terrific.

The dowager of 10th Street West is saved.

I had my doubts.

The 1920s-era Manatee River Hotel has been an eyesore since it became vacant almost seven years ago.

It is hardly a welcoming sight to motorists coming south across the Green Bridge.

Despite the City of Bradenton’s efforts to halt its deterioration, the historic eight-story building had languished to the point where it seemed the wrecking ball was inevitable.

Perhaps the time had come to put it out of its misery.

If this deal with developers had fallen through?

Kaboom!

Not anymore.

The Widewaters Group Inc., the building owners based in Syracuse, N.Y., announced it had accepted the Downtown Development Authority’s offer to revitalize the nearly century-old building and convert it into a Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel.

More than a year of bargaining concluded in a swift manner.

The DDA formally tendered its proposal Tuesday.

The city council tentatively OK’d it Wednesday.

Widewaters approved it Friday.

Bing-bang-boom!

The package included:

n More than $1 million in incentives.

n Fifteen years of tax rebates that could total $1.5 million.

n Streetscape improvements estimated between $80,000 and $110,000.

In addition, city officials were able to secure $100,000 in tax rebates and credits as a designated “brownfield” site for state environmental clean-up and jobs incentives.

Given the momentum of developments downtown -- new pubs and restaurants on Main Street, Riverwalk, Blues Festival, etc. -- the Pink Palace agreement is another sign of progress.

It did not look so encouraging last spring.

Widewaters originally wanted $3.8 million in grants to do the deal.

So when the DDA offered a $1 million facade grant, streetscaping and tax abatements, the developers were decidedly unimpressed.

They said the money was not enough to make the $15 million-$17 million project feasible.

“It’s surprising and disappointing and I am not sure where we go from here,” said Widewaters development director Brian Long in April. “We will have to evaluate our options.

“Maybe we can sit on the property and see what happens.”

Uh, oh.

So what happened?

Widewaters came down and the DDA and city came up creatively in the ensuing negotiations.

There was something else at work, too.

The developers had to see what was going on downtown.

They had to feel the synergy.

The Pink Palace could be the pièce de résistance, a catalyst in the urban core of the city’s evolution.

Construction begins next spring and the new Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel should open its doors mid-2013.

Can’t wait.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.

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