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Turning condo into hotel offered as solution for convention center

PALMETTO — A former New York City developer, who is experienced at converting offices and warehouses into residences, this week proposed using empty condominium units as hotel rooms.

David Teitelbaum, owner of Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds Resort and SeaSide Inn Beach Resort on Anna Maria Island presented his idea at the Manatee County Tourist Development Council on Monday.

“My specialty is readaptive reuse of old buildings,” Teitelbaum said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “I would take what’s in over supply and convert it to what’s in short supply.”

The council discussed a 10-year program for the Manatee Convention Center and what was missing to make it more successful. The problem of not having a hotel next to or within walking distance of the facility again was one of the major issues holding back the center staff from drawing larger conventions.

“We have meeting space and no adjacent hotel for that space,” said Larry White on Wednesday, who has been executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau for 17 years.

“We have some very nice hotels south of the river,” White said, “but we approach people about bring their meetings here, they say when we get a hotel call us back.”

He said there would be a lot of details to work through to convert the condominiums units.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who serves as the chairwoman of the tourist council, said a lot of eyebrows were raised when Teitelbaum made his suggestion.

“But I said it was a very good idea,” Whitmore said Wednesday. “This is the out-of-the-box thinking we need today.”

Teitelbaum said it may be an unusual idea for some, but, “You have to look at things differently sometimes.”

For him it was a matter of coming up with a plan and talking to the owners and the banks.

Along with County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Elliot Falcone, assistant director of the visitor’s bureau, Teitelbaum, who was elected vice-chairman of the council Monday, will begin making contacts with the involved parties.

Tim Vining, of Corvus International, which developed the Palms at Riviera Dunes condominiums on Haben Boulevard, said Teitelbaum’s idea was interesting.

“Certainly the Palms condominiums adjacent to the convention center may be conducive to some type of rental conversions,” Vining said Wednesday.

He said he has worked with White for the past four years about getting a hotel chain interested in coming to Palmetto.

Vining’s company owns the vacant land fronting U.S. 41/301 next to the convention facility, and he said the property would be a great location for a business-class, full-service hotel.

“The extension of Seventh Street West and making improvements to the convention center would be necessary to attract a hotel chain,” he said. “It’s just getting the two to happen at the same time.”

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