Tour of historic Bradenton hotel brings back memories for some

Tour of former 'Pink Palace' brings back memories of ritzy Bradenton icon

skennedy@bradenton.comAugust 23, 2013 

BRADENTON -- The historic hotel undergoing a massive renovation in downtown Bradenton is slated for a soft opening Nov. 19, officials said Thursday as they took visitors through for the first time.

"It brings back memories for me," said Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle, who recalled the father of a classmate worked in the 1950s at what was known as the "Pink Palace."

"I remember eating lunch at one time, probably when I was in college and had come home," recalled Bustle, who described the former Manatee River Hotel as "ritzy."

The 1920s-era hotel, now painted a tasteful beige, is in the midst of a $15 million facelift designed to return it to its former glory.

The hotel at 309 10th St. W. will be transformed into a 119-room Hampton Inn & Suites.

Although expected to open in November, a grand opening is slated for the second week of January, said Spurgeon Nisbett, hotel general manager.

The hotel management team has already been hired, and all will start Sept. 16, he said.

A job fair to hire 30 to 35 more employees is slated for Sept. 18-19 at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium, he said.

Construction superintendent Chris Ferry led a group including county commissioners, Bradenton and chamber of commerce officials, and reporters through the construction site, which was cluttered with building materials on the first floor.

The original grand stairway and exotic floor tiles in the lobby area remained, but the building will also boast plenty of modern amenities, such as a fitness room and outdoor pool, new reception desk, and air-conditioning, modern plumbing and wiring and new windows on some floors, Ferry said.

Upstairs, the rooms and hallways looked more finished, except some walls lacked paint and rolls of new carpet sat out.

Roughly 100 construction workers have been renovating the hotel since January, said Ferry.

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

A favorite of the wealthy set for decades, it closed in the 1960s before reopening as a senior citizen residence called the Riverpark Hotel. The residence closed in 2005, and the building has remained vacant since. "We're on the cusp of something special to know it's going to open before Thanksgiving," said Dave Gustafson, executive director of Bradenton's Downtown Development Authority.

"We have a lot of faith in the company. It's the ninth hotel they've done nationwide."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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