tampabay.com

Work begins soon on downtown Clearwater Marriott

By MIKE DONILA
Published May 16, 2007


CLEARWATER - Construction on what will be downtown's only major hotel will start within a month, the developer said Tuesday, a year after city planners first signed off on the plan.

The 115-room Residence Inn by Marriott, situated on a 2.22-acre triangular site at 940 Court St., will be one of the first buildings westbound motorists will see on their way to downtown. Room rates are expected to be roughly $125 a night.

While the hotel is on the mainland, city leaders say it's crucial to the beach, which has lost thousands of overnight rooms in the past few years, and it offers lodging for those who want to stay near the waterfront.

"It's going to be a great big 'Welcome' sign, " said Vice Mayor John Doran. "It will be attractive and upscale, but still affordable."

While downtown has other, smaller overnight lodgings in the area, most of those have been turned into residential units. And Clearwater's signature downtown hotel, the Fort Harrison Hotel, was bought in the 1970s by the Church of Scientology.

The new $20-million hotel will include a swimming pool and a small meeting room, but will not have a restaurant.

Work must start by Aug. 15 and finish within 14 months, says a development agreement the builders have with the city. In return, Clearwater will reimburse the project up to $578, 000, most of that for room and landscape enhancements.

The Clarkson Group, a Marriott franchisee based in Jacksonville, will build the hotel. Developers met with city leaders Tuesday to talk briefly about the project.

The City Council, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, also signed off on the reimbursement funding.