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Up in arms describes opponents of hotel

Converting a SoHo apartment complex into a hotel has some area residents convinced problems will follow.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 6, 2002

Residents against a proposed Hilton hotel on Howard Avenue are standing their position despite efforts by the developer to change their minds.

Supporters of the plan to convert the 1301 SoHo apartments into a Homewood Suites say the hotel would disrupt their neighborhood and damage the residential character.

"I have no objection to the project but why the location?" said Bob Nader, one of about a dozen people who attended a meeting Tuesday night with the developer.

Jerry Cox, of Long & Cox Properties in Atlanta, and several consultants met with homeowners to discuss the plan and go over concerns. A second meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16 at Bayshore Presbyterian Church.

Tuesday's meeting ended abruptly when frustrated residents got up and left. Cox said afterward he remained hopeful they could resolve issues.

Cox wants to buy the apartment complex and turn it into an 80-suite Hilton hotel designed for long-term business guests. The developer would renovate the existing units and build a registration and administration building along Alabama Avenue.

"We picked this site because we were absolutely enthralled with the neighborhood," he said. "We feel like we would not be much of a disturbance."

The suites, which include fully equipped kitchens, would go for $105 to $135 a night with guests staying an average of five nights, said Brian Fyre of Hilton Hotels. Hilton has another Homewood Suites on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.

Opponents said they don't want a hotel next to their homes. They worry about traffic and strangers stumbling to the hotel after a night of eating and drinking along Howard.

"People who come down to Howard are there to party and go out. They don't go to bed at 8 o'clock," said Julie Samartin.

Michael English, a local urban planner hired by the developer, said the hotel would enhance the neighborhood and help area businesses. It would create about 30 percent less traffic than the apartment complex.

Many merchants welcome the idea.

"We really think this would be a positive addition to the community," English said.

Hillsborough's city-county Planning Commission in October opposed changing the use of the land, based largely on residents' objections. The issue goes to the City Council on Jan. 9.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or

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