'Pink Palace' developer looking at more hotel sites, official says

City official says firm may consider new hotel project

skennedy@bradenton.comAugust 9, 2012 

BRADENTON -- The same company slated to restore the "pink palace" in downtown Bradenton is also looking at other possible hotel sites in the area, a Bradenton official has confirmed.

"They have said that, once they get through, they're very interested in pursuing another site," said Dave Gustafson, executive director of Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority, which is charged with revitalizing the city's downtown.

Gustafson said the company, Widewaters Bradenton LLC, is considering one site in particular, but he declined to specify its location.

With a $15 million restoration of the 1920s-era former Manatee River Hotel slated to start within weeks, company officials have their hands full right now, Gustafson said.

"We are going to continue to market properties to them," he said. "We are not resting on our laurels."

Brian Long, director of development for the company's parent, The Widewaters Group Inc., of Syracuse, N.Y., was unavailable for comment.

A day earlier, the Manatee County Commission OK'd $125,000 in economic incentives to be paid out over three years' time.

It was the final piece of a multi-faceted economic package the Widewaters company received from various sources for renovation of the 1920s former Manatee River Hotel, 309 10th St. W., Bradenton.

Construction is expected to start about Sept. 1.

"We are very excited about the development of the Widewaters hotel in downtown Bradenton, and very happy to be a partner of that hotel," said Karen Stewart, county economic development manager.

She predicted it would improve the downtown area as a destination where people could come and stay, and enjoy many new amenities downtown.

"It's part of the energy created through the Riverwalk, development of the downtown, the Village of the Arts and other amenities," said Stewart.

Once Widewaters' Hampton Inn & Suites Hotel is completed next year, it will be easier to market Bradenton to upscale leisure visitors who will stay downtown and commute to the beaches, said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"Bradenton now has amenities for the visitor to enjoy, other than sugar sand beaches," said Falcione. "It diversifies our business.

"We would love nothing more than for them to expand their horizons in our community, once the pink palace project is complete."

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

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