Family to build hotel, its fourth, in Gateway area

A Comfort Inn catering to business travelers will join the Patel portfolio.

Published July 2, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - Expanding on its existing investments, the owners of three hotels in the city will build a fourth, aimed at corporate clients in the Gateway area.

"We are targeting that clientele in the new hotel," said Paul Patel, who, with his extended family, owns the 75-room Comfort Inn & Suites at 1400 34th St. N, the 50-room Budget Inn at 800 34th St. N, and the 150-room Days Inn at 2595 54th Ave N. The new hotel at 94th Avenue N and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street will also be a Comfort Inn, with 47 rooms.

Patel said the family bought the three hotels it currently owns over the past several years, paying $3.5-million, $1.3-million and $3.6-million, respectively, for the Comfort, Budget and Days Inn properties. The new hotel, the first one the family will have built, will cost about $4-million.

"We like hotels," said Patel, 25. "But we're not just buying them to buy them. We don't just buy and sell. We keep."

Patel said his family runs the hotels it owns and has renovated most of them considerably. He said his family is not related to Dr. Kiran C. Patel of Tampa, whose family also has development and community interests. Paul Patel said his last name is, in his home city of Gujarat, India, as common as "Smith" or "Jones" would be in the United States.

The new hotel will create about 15 full-time jobs, Patel said, and should begin construction in the next few months. He said the building will not contain meeting rooms but will have a spa, pool and fitness center on its 1.3-acre parcel. It will also provide wireless Internet access to all facilities, as do the Comfort and Days inns the family already runs.

Patel said the new building will be set well off the street with ample landscaping, will sit on a corner and not abut any residential property. The site had been a gas station, Patel said, but the family is taking steps to make sure the soil is clean for its new development.

The new hotel is aimed at the business sector, Patel said. It is surrounded by office parks and located within easy distance to downtown St. Petersburg, Clearwater or Tampa.

The family's existing properties cater to a more mixed clientele, including many seasonal tourists, Patel said. Those hotels are in the city's core, but still have strong occupancy rates because of their central location and close proximity to downtown and the beaches. Patel said the two properties along 34th Street have average annual occupancies of 80 percent, while the larger Days Inn tallies 65 percent occupancy.

Patel said the 34th Street corridor is changing because of investments like those of his family and because of the efforts of the city, which has cooperated with his family's work. Still, he said, there are some older hotels that charge low rates and cater to a transient clientele. He said advertisements for $30 hotel rooms discourage further development because his clients see that as a sign of a poor area.

"It just looks so bad," he said.

Patel said his family has no plans for new investments elsewhere in the area, but is always exploring options. He said that when his family started buying properties five years ago, there was little competition, but now there are more investors looking at hotels.

Paul Swider can be reached at 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.