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Plans to bring Hilton to Carillon gain ground
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 6, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- A four-star Hilton Hotel is expected to become the centerpiece of the Carillon business park.
The $47-million project received site plan approval Wednesday from the city's Environmental Development Commission. A layout and illustration are labeled "St. Petersburg Hilton Hotel," though a representative with Echelon Corp., Carillon's developer, stressed that it "ain't soup yet."
Attorney Stephen Chumbris of Holland & Knight LLP confirmed that his client, Earwood Construction of Memphis, Tenn., and another Memphis company, Flautt Inc., are negotiating with Echelon to buy the Carillon property and build and operate a Hilton hotel on the site.
Representatives for Earwood or the Hilton could not be reached for comment.
The hotel is in the fastest growing hotel market in Pinellas County. Three new extended stay hotels opened in the Gateway area in the past two years. Meanwhile, a 91-suite, full-service Radisson Hotel is under construction across Roosevelt Boulevard from Carillon at the corner of 28th Street. That $20-million project, which is located in Pinellas Park, is being developed by Menna Development and Management Inc. of Clearwater.
At Wednesday's EDC meeting, city planner John Hixenbaugh gushed. "This is a real jewel in the crown of St. Petersburg. . . . The proposed project will provide a much desired amenity for employees and corporate entities in the park and will create a catalyst to attract others to the St. Petersburg corporate community."
The full-service hotel would be 11 stories tall and dominate Carillon's lakefront, across from the Raymond James Financial Center.
The plans call for 300 guest rooms, space for meetings, conferences and corporate training, as well as a ballroom, a major restaurant, lounge, gift shop, and fitness center. An outdoor pool and patio area open up to the lake.
Another building, with four stories of offices atop two stories of structured parking, would be attached later to the hotel.
Hixenbaugh told the EDC that the city's planning staff has been working on the project with Echelon Corp. for nearly six months.
"We wanted to go to the EDC for approval on the site plan so there would be no delay with the deal," Chumbris said. "Once the negotiations are completed, construction on the project will be fairly prompt. We are ready to go."
Julio Maggi, an Echelon vice president, was cautiously optimistic Thursday and refused to say how close the deal was to fruition. Echelon has not worked with Earwood prior to this project, he said.
"This is still in a state of flux. We are in a due diligence mode and have the expectation that this is going to happen, but whether it is a Hilton or not, it will be beyond a four-star hotel. We're hoping it will be very, very special."
St. Petersburg already has one Hilton hotel -- the Bayfront Hilton near the city's downtown waterfront. There are 1,800 Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites and Hampton Inns worldwide, with 300,000 hotel rooms producing $2.1-billion in revenue in 1999.
Echelon began planning Carillon in the mid 1990s. Last year, Echelon refocused the 432-acre development, turning it into a multi-use, urban core project that would include a 20-screen theater, hotel, parking garage, office building, 200 condominium apartments, retail stores and restaurants, cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture.
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