I have to admit, out of the entire Tampa Bay area, I spend most of my time in the EDGE District of Downtown St. Petersburg. And I’m definitely not alone. Take a stroll down Central Avenue and you’ll notice locals enjoying lattes at Intermezzo, cubans at Bodega, shopping at Ashe Couture Boutique and much more.
In fact, there is usually more activity in the EDGE District than in any other downtown neighborhood, including the downtown core. Most impressively, the growth of the area has been organic and smart, rather than overly manufactured or master-planned. It has nearly everything you’d want in an urban, walkable neighborhood. With so much character and personality, it’s no surprise that the EDGE District is on the verge of evolving from a locals-only hangout to an out-of-towner destination.
We recently spoke with Mark DeMaria, CEO of Michigan-based DevMar Development, about a new boutique hotel he is developing in the heart of the neighborhood, at the corner of 11th Street and Baum Avenue North. This will be the second St. Pete project for DevMar, who is also responsible for the Vantage Lofts 11-story high-rise luxury loft apartments, which will begin vertical construction in a few weeks at 16th Street and 1st Avenue North. As with the Vantage Lofts land, the proposed hotel will sit on a currently-vacant lot owned by local real estate investor Jonathan Daou, who has been advocating for a hotel in the EDGE District for years.
“As we’ve been working on this apartment project for the last couple of years, we’ve started to really understand the market and felt there was a strong need for more hotel rooms in the area,” says DeMaria. “We believe sustained growth is happening in that part of town, especially with the redevelopment of the Tropicana Field site.”
DeMaria recognizes a trend that is currently driving the evolution of hotels in America — the desire to be active, engaged and have an experience in localized urban areas. These days, travelers are more interested in living like a local, than a tourist. For neighborhoods like the EDGE District that do not have any hotels, visitors have the choice of staying in an AirBnb, where quality can be very hit-or-miss, or at a hotel in another neighborhood. Currently, the nearest hotel to the EDGE District is the Hyatt Place on 2nd Street and Central Avenue, which is about a 20 minute walk.
Although the neighborhood presently lacks a hotel, the surrounding area is absolutely overflowing with new residential development — and more is on the way. Currently, there are around 1,400 new residential units either under construction or proposed within half a mile of DevMar’s planned boutique hotel. That’s not even considering over 700 units completed over the last few years. Not only will this new hotel appeal to tourists and business travelers, but DevMar is expecting to attract the visiting families and friends of nearby apartment residents.
The proposed hotel is still in the design phase, so many of the details haven’t been finalized. However, plans currently call for an 11-story modern-style hotel that will add 130-140 rooms to Downtown St. Pete. The $30 million project will have a major focus on amenities, including an upscale lobby bar and restaurant on the ground level that is sure to be a destination even for locals. Other amenities being discussed are a fitness center and coworking space. Parking will be located on floors two and three, while the suites will occupy floors 3-10. A rooftop pool and sky bar will crown the building.
A hotel brand — or “flags,” as they’re known — has not been selected yet, but an announcement should be coming soon. “We’re negotiating with three different flags right now,” says DeMaria. “Representatives from those companies have toured the EDGE District recently and the excitement level couldn’t be higher. They love it here.”
DeMaria’s vision is a hotel designed specifically for St. Pete, as opposed to bringing in a cookie-cutter style chain. The hotel will have an independent feel, with design elements and attributes that are purely local, including a hotel name that connects with St. Pete.
Ultimately, DevMar will select a flag that allows them to maintain the hotel's spirited independence, captivating design and vibrant social scene, while leveraging the power of the hotel brand’s operational and management expertise. In our opinion, brands that could fit this description include Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio, Curio by Hilton or The Unbound Collection by Hyatt.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a project like this. An EDGE District hotel is big news for the area, further validating Downtown St. Pete and the surrounding area as a growing tourist and business destination. And DevMar Development is betting the upward trend will continue. DeMaria admits, “We have completely shifted our company’s focus to make the Gulf Coast and Central Florida our main priority. We love the area, we love the growing residential population, business growth, and everything about it.”
After meeting with the Intown Community Redevelopment Agency and a few neighborhood associations, the hotel plans will be allowed to go straight to permitting. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the hotel is expected to break ground in 8-9 months with a completion date by the end of 2020.