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2 Boutique Hotels, Aloft And Le Meridien, Ready For Guests

Two upscale boutique hotels -- each with its own style created inside renovated properties -- will debut in downtown Tampa in coming weeks.

Aloft Tampa Downtown is targeting the next generation of business travelers hip to a sleek, modern look, tech-savvy gadgets, trending music and a social atmosphere.

Le Meridien Tampa is a contemporary version of a grand hotel experience in the renovated and restored Classic Federal Courthouse with a sweeping staircase, soaring ceilings, marble and terrazzo features, state-of-the-art technology and French-style dining at Bizou Brasserie under the direction of a Parisian chef.

Both are under the umbrella of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

Former and current  judges get a walk-through of Le Meridien on June 11, trailed by media. Doors open to the public June 16. A grand opening for the hotel, located at 601 N. Florida Ave., is slated for June 26.

Two blocks over at Kennedy Boulevard and Ashley Drive, Aloft is poised to open on the Tampa Riverwalk, the city's vision of a grand promenade along the Hillsborough River. By design, the hotel's ground floor, with Aloft's signature w xyz bar, is an open portal onto Riverwalk, breaking down barriers between inside and outside, and creating a new public space.

"It feels open to anyone to eat, drink and relax," says developer Punit Shah, CEO of Liberty Group. "There are no walls, no delineation of space."

An invitation-only opening is scheduled July 10 though the hotel's 130 loft-style rooms likely will be ready for occupancy sooner. And a grand opening for the public will be held at a later date. "It will be Tampa's hippest and coolest hotel," says Shah. "It's unprecedented."

Aloft Tampa is the fifth Aloft hotel in Florida. It was developed by Liberty Group in partnership with Convergent Capital.Parners. Starwood plans its sixth Aloft for New Orleans in 2015. 

Aloft will feature live music events, video and audio streaming capabilities, large HDTVs, the re:mix lounge, a waterfront pool, a 24-hour fitness center and a rooftop terrace with spectacular views of the river and minarets at University of Tampa.

Room check-in will be available with an app and a smartphone finger tap. Via text message, Shah says, "(The hotel door) will pop right open. Everything in the hotel is designed to be state-of-the-art, the highest and best available."

The addition of Aloft and Le Meridien to downtown's hotel landscape is good news for Visit Tampa Bay, which keeps a watchful eye on Hillsborough County's hotel bed tax revenues. This year already is on a pace to surpass more than $21.8 million collected in 2007, the best revenue year before the recession crushed the economy.

Last year's revenues came within nearly $650,000 of matching the 2007 record. Already the revenues through May of this year are $1.6 million higher than revenues collected through May 2013.

"We are thrilled with these two properties," says Santiago Corrada, Visit Tampa Bay's CEO. "The industry is doing well. We're back to pre-recession numbers."

But Corrada is hoping for additional hotels downtown to accommodate more conventions, larger conventions and multiple conventions at the same time at the Tampa Convention Center.  "We need more hotel capacity downtown because we have a convention center that needs to be running at capacity," he says. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Punit Shah, Aloft Tampa; Santiago Carrado, Visit Tampa Bay

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer and editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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