Downtown Pensacola’s first new hotel in more than three decades is now open.
The 106-room, 65,000 square foot Holiday Inn Express opened Thursday at 101 East Main Street near Palafox Street. The hotel’s developer broke ground on the $8 million project in late 2015, building atop the site of a former turn-of-the-century warehouse.
“This site was chosen because it is the epicenter of downtown Pensacola’s development boom,” said Heeteesh Patel, who led the development of the project under Knoxville-based Siddiqi Investments.
“We went to several cities in the panhandle to look at building our first hotel in Florida,” said Patel. “After looking at many cities we narrowed our decision to Pensacola.”
Tennessee-based Trigem Construction is the general contractor and Kana Hotels, also based out of Knoxville, will manage and operate the hotel.
With the hotel’s opening this week — just a few days before the Christmas holiday — staff said the hotel is already beginning to book up for the holiday and New Years Eve.
“We just began accepting reservations on Wednesday” said Becky DeCesare, general manager of the hotel. “We’re looking to do pretty well for New Years when everyone will be coming downtown.”
While the hotel is now open, DeCesare said there are still a few minor projects to be completed within the building. The pool and spa area are still awaiting completion.
“We expect to have our grand opening sometime in late January or February,” DeCesare said.
Prior to Patel’s development company purchasing the property for $1.5 million in December 2014, the property had been home to a historic brick warehouse previously owned by the Lewis Bear Company that was built in 1905. That building was heavily damaged and razed after Hurricane Ivan struck Pensacola in 2005 and was demolished soon after. According to the developer, the seemingly plain industrial look of the building is meant to blend with the downtown historic district, where many industrial warehouses and businesses were once located.
Patel said the hotel is a perfect fit for the downtown area, where there are few hotels within a short walking distance to restaurants, nightlife, and attractions.
“We’ve purposely limited the amount of amenities within the hotel to allow our guests to enjoy the great amenities of downtown Pensacola,” Patel said. “The hotel is meant to complement the growth of downtown Pensacola. We invested here because we felt confident in the market of Pensacola.”
The new hotel is the first to open in the historic core of downtown Pensacola in at least three decades. Its opening could signal a wave of future potential hotel development, with at least one more hotel currently in the planning stages in the former Hawkshaw neighborhood of downtown Pensacola.
“I think we’re going to see another hotel or two open up within two years,” said DeCesare. “The demand is there — the market is there.”
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