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Tampa's Rocky Point Gets Luxury Makeover

By DAVE SIMANOFF The Tampa Tribune

Published: Jul 1, 2007
TAMPA - Rocky Point has never been short on charm. Soon it will never want for luxury, either.

A luxury hotel will begin rising from the ground this summer on this island in Old Tampa Bay that is already known for some of the area's dearest office space and dreamiest waterfront views.

At least three more high-end projects, including condominiums and hotels, are on the drawing boards. In several years, some of the island's familiar restaurants and hotels may be demolished to make room for gleaming new towers overlooking the bay.

Experts say Rocky Point's business-friendly location along with demand for upscale development - hotels, in particular - is driving interest in the island.

Rocky Point, which straddles the Courtney Campbell Parkway, is already home to a handful of older hotels geared toward business travelers. The 20-year-old Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, which sits just east of Rocky Point on Bayport Drive, is considered one of the area's top hotels.

Several restaurants, apartments and the headquarters of Shriners International (of fez and hospital fame) are also on the island. Office rental rates run about $30 a square foot on the island, higher than in other parts of Tampa.

Luxury is seeping onto Rocky Point from the neighboring West Shore business district, where upscale stores, restaurants and hotels have propagated since the advent of Saks Fifth Avenue in 1998, International Plaza mall in 2001 and the Renaissance Tampa hotel in 2004.

First Up: The Westin
Foundation work is already under way on Rocky Point's newest addition, a 16-story Westin hotel being developed by Tampa-based Impact Properties. The building will begin taking shape this summer on property that was once home to a serviceable but nondescript Days Inn hotel.

Site work actually began last year on the Westin but was deliberately slowed so the original plans - which called for a 195-room hotel and 20 condominium units - could be revised, expanding the hotel to 255 units, adding two floors and eliminating the residential units.

"The residential market was soft last year, and we had problems selling the 20 residences," explains Dilip Kanji, president of Impact Properties.

Kanji expects construction to be complete by the end of next year, with a grand opening in time for the 2009 Super Bowl in Tampa.

The next project to take shape on Rocky Point will likely be the Ritz-Carlton hotel and condominiums. Orion Communities, based in Clearwater, plans to replace the aging Radisson Bay Harbor hotel with two towers containing a combined 274 hotel rooms and 184 condominium units.

Condominium sales are set to begin this year, and construction is expected to start in early 2008, according to Rodney Moore, Orion Communities' executive vice president.

Moore doesn't predict any problems with residential sales despite the ongoing downturn in the home market.

"Statistically, the high-end luxury market is doing very well right now, even though average homes may be in a slowdown," he said. "People who are looking to buy this lifestyle typically do not slow down in this kind of market."

Sales prices have not been set yet for the Ritz-Carlton residences, but buyers can expect price tags from about $1.2 million to $8 million, Moore said.

Both Kanji and Moore said they sought sites on Rocky Point because of its location, accessibility to the West Shore business district and Tampa International Airport and views of Old Tampa Bay.

"You've got the location to get to great locations - to malls, to shopping - with the least amount of traffic and hassle," Moore said. "You've got the character of the Courtney Campbell. You've got the planes coming into the airport at night - you can see them but you can't hear them. You've got the skylines of St. Pete and Tampa. There's no place like it. You have the best of all worlds."

Kanji said he's not worried about having three luxury hotels - a Westin, a Grant Hyatt, a Ritz-Carton - sitting near one another on the Courtney Campbell Parkway.

"If I was as the beginning of my career I would tell you, 'Oh, no! Competition!'" he said. "But now, I believe the more competition you have in a market, the more it establishes a market as a premier location. Rocky Point will now be known as a premier upscale hotel market."

Coming Soon: The Mih
Two more projects are on the drawing boards for Rocky Point, although it's harder to predict when construction will begin on either.

One is Mih (pronounced "mee"), a mixed-use development with 252 residential units, 20,000 square feet of office space and 41,225 square feet of amenities. Developer Naidip Tampa Bay, based in Tampa, says it's actively working on plans for Mih - the name comes from the Sanskrit word for mist - and could adjust its strategy as market needs change.

"We're taking a really studied approach to what the right mix is for that property," said Ned Roberts, Naidip's director of marketing. "It's not a situation where the market is so hot that we've got to jump in right now full steam ahead."

Until then, the site will continue to be leased to Landry's Seafood House, a restaurant.

Naidip is committed to an "iconic" design for the site, Roberts said.

The company has produced a rendering of the building that incorporates some of the curvilinear forms of sails - an idea that might not be used in the final development, Roberts said.

"We really want to make sure the project we put together for that property is a benefit not just for Rocky Point, but for Tampa as a whole," he said. "But we have no need to rush into it and no desire to rush into it."

Cortex Co. is developing the fourth project on Rocky Point, a 108-unit condominium project called Blue Meridian. Company officials referred questions about Blue Meridian to an executive who was traveling and couldn't be reached for comment.

http://www.tbo.com/news/money/MGBHFLLMK3F.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It's definitely a great place to get a different perspective of Tampa. I took my brother-in-law there for dinner, and he was wowed by the view of downtown, the stadium, 275, and everything.
 
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