The Bradenton City Council unanimously gave the nod to developer’s plan to rehabilitate the Manatee River Hotel downtown, providing the final government approval for the project.
“This is a very significant decision, and I want to thank everyone involved," said Mayor Wayne Poston. "It’s a major decision point.”
Officially the city did not “approve” the project, but instead waived the right to veto the project. This is in accord with the council’s relationship with the Bradenton Downtown Redevelopment Authority. The DDA approved the project earlier this month.
Brian Long, the director of development for Widewater, was on hand and after the vote thanked each council member individually. Long estimates renovating the 1926 hotel will cost about $15 million.
The development agreement calls for restoration of the exterior to it’s 1926 elegance. The first floor will also be restored to it’s Roaring Twenties style. The remaining floors are totally gutted – no wiring, plumbing or walls remain. They will be made into 115 rooms and suites for a Hampton Inn Suites Hotel.
Work could begin next spring, with completion estimated by spring of 2013. The restored hotel will not contain a bar or restaurant.
Widewater received several public incentives to take up the effort. It will receive $500,000 when work commences, and an additional $500,000 when the work is finished and the building receives a Certificate of Occupancy.
The company will also receive 15 years of tax adjustments, worth an estimated $1.5 million. And It will receive federal tax credits for historic renovation, which can be sold to another entity. The DDA will also provide about $100,000 for landscape and infrastructure improvements.
The council also unanimously approved a parking plan for the renovated hotel, allowing hotel patrons to use any legal spot downtown. While there was concern expressed about the hotel taking up high-demand spots – along Old Main Street, for example – City Clerk Carl Callahan said the hotel staff will direct patrons to closer and less-used spots.
“We have 18 months to work out the details,” he said.
Widewater will next go before the Manatee County Commission for additional property tax adjustments.
“The county is agreeable to work on this,” Callahan said.