Aloft Hotels opens trendy, 139-room hotel in downtown Sarasota

Aloft Sarasota opens Friday

Aloft Sarasota, a swanky new hotel in downtown Sarasota, will welcome its first guests on Friday.
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Aloft Sarasota, a swanky new hotel in downtown Sarasota, will welcome its first guests on Friday.

SARASOTA -- Swanky, trendy new hotel Aloft Sarasota will open its doors to guests for the first time on Friday and hopes to become an integral part of the downtown Sarasota scene while adding to the selection of area hotels.

"There will be just as many locals as internal guests," said Jason Samson, general manager of Aloft Sarasota. The lounge area, termed "Re:mix" in Aloft-speak, has two entry points; the main entrance off of Ringling Boulevard and another door from Palm Avenue. The double-entrance design is made to make locals feel welcome, Samson said.

The 10-story, Starwood Hotels and Resorts-branded hotel brings 139 additional rooms to the area's hotel market. Hotel guests and tenants who occupy one of the 138 apartments in the adjoined building share a high-rise pool deck on the eighth floor. Other amenities include a fitness center known as Re:charge, 24-hour grab-and-go food bar dubbed Re:fuel, a business center and a first-floor WXYZ bar, named partially after the W Hotels brand.

In-season room rates range from around $250 per night to close to $400 a night, Samson said. Though it offers generally the same amenities, Aloft Sarasota is overall larger than other Aloft hotel properties.

"It's like Aloft amplified," said Jason Reader, vice president of operations for Aloft Sarasota's management company, Pyramid Hotel Group. "It's a unique complex." The

Re:mix area's walls display paintings and pictures from local artists and Samson hopes to bring local bands in four or five days out of the week.

The hotel provides a new hangout for locals and fills a need in the under served downtown Sarasota market.

"There's been a shortage for years of downtown walkable hotels," Samson said. "With lots of the hotels you have to cross (U.S.) 41 to get to downtown. And there's never really been a hotel like this."

Taking advantage of downtown traffic is not a new concept for hoteliers. In late January, the city of Bradenton entered into a $650,000 purchase agreement with North Star Lodging and Development to potentially develop a $17 million Marriott-owned Spring Hill Suites hotel in downtown Bradenton, following the success of Bradenton's downtown Hampton Inn.

Hotels are important to keep downtown areas lively because it helps bring in new money and gives visitors more options.

"I think that hotels in the urban core cater to a broader visitor demographic," said Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "What I mean by a broad visitor demographic is you may have a visitor demographic that can only afford to stay on the beach so if they can afford to stay on the beach they're going to stay on the beach all the time. But you may have clientele that can't afford to stay on the beach and said let's go stay in downtown Bradenton and enjoy all the downtown amenities."

County officials will begin negotiations on Feb. 18 for a Palmetto hotel adjacent to the Bradenton Area Convention Center, located across the river from downtown Bradenton.

Kelly Ann Dixon of the Hampton Inn and Suites in downtown Bradenton said they've seen a slight drop in occupancy rates in January because of warmer winter weather up north, but are expecting to achieve more than 90 percent occupancy for the quarter.

"People who may have stayed at the airport come and stay downtown because they don't have to get in their car and drive to go out to eat," Dixon said. The Hampton Inn downtown has also seen a lot of traffic from sports teams, she said, because the teams and coaches enjoy the walkability of the location.

Downtown Sarasota's walkability helped attract Aloft to its space at 1401 Ringling Boulevard in addition to other businesses and vibrant nightlife.

"This to me is an ideal location," Reader said. "When you're in downtown, you're in the heart of a city."

Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.