BRADENTON — Another white knight may be riding into town to save the Pink Palace.
Tim Polk, director of the city planning and community development department, told city council at a work session meeting Wednesday he will be talking today with a potential buyer of the historic Manatee River Hotel at 309 10th St. W. in downtown.
The seven-story, 84-year-old building, affectionately called the Pink Palace because of its distinctive exterior paint color, has been vacant since Riverpark Grande Development Inc. purchased it in 2005 for $3.5 million.
Since then there have been several failed attempts to convert the former senior-housing complex into condominiums or a luxury, boutique hotel.
In May, Regions Bank foreclosed on the property, after the development company defaulted on a $2.625 million loan.
Rehabilitation work was started shortly after the building was purchased, but halted after the condominium market crashed in 2006-07.
The once elegant, downtown landmark, has become dilapidated with torn plastic sheeting flapping out busted-out windows.
Commissioner Gene Gallo asked at the work session Wednesday if the city can board up all the windows and charge the owner with the costs.
Polk said securing the building will be one of the issues he plans to discuss with the potential new owners.
After the work session, Polk said Regions Bank searched out the new developers to take over the project because of their 48-year history of rehabilitating historic hotels in Florida and throughout the mid-Atlantic states.
He said he is hopeful there will be some positive results from the discussions because the building is part of the gateway view of the city when people come over the Green and DeSoto bridges.
“If we don’t do something within a year or so it will have to be demolished because it will be too far gone,” Polk said. “That is why it’s important to get someone with the financial abilities to make it happen.”
Gallo said in an interview after the work session that he is not sure the city can wait a year.
“It’s beyond restoration as the grand old place it once was,” he said. “We’re not going to find anyone (who could do the restoration) without government funding.
“Bradenton is not in the position to do these things,” Gallo said. “The time is wrong, the economy is wrong.
“We’re not New York City, we’re Bradenton,” the longtime councilman said.
It may be better for the city to demolish the building and let someone build a new building, Gallo said.
In December, the Downtown Development Authority had offered the former owner to work out an agreement to build a 140-vehicle parking garage next to the hotel for $3 million if the building was renovated.
Because of the economic downturn, the developer was not able to secure financing for the project.