Downtown Pensacola Aloft, Element scrapped in favor of smaller hotel
A planned dual-branded Aloft and Element hotel in downtown Pensacola appear to have been shelved in favor of a suburban-style Hilton Garden Inn design, according to new plans submitted to city officials.
The 101-room hotel would occupy the southern half of a nearly five-acre site along 9th Avenue in the city’s Hawkshaw section, near the Gulf Power Building and Admiral Mason Park. SMP Architecture is seeking conceptual approval for its design from the city’s Gateway Review Board.
The new hotel is being developed by Pensacola hotelier Mitesh Patel — the same developer behind the dual-branded 200-room Aloft and Element hotel announced for the same site last year — as well as Atlanta-based Peachtree Hotel Group. Patel purchased the two parcels that comprise the site for $3 million in 2016.
“We spoke with the owner of an Aloft in Jacksonville that is having some challenges and he told us Pensacola just may not be there yet to support an Aloft,” Patel said Wednesday. “We’ve teamed up with Peachtree Hotel Group to be a minority interest on the project. We have a firm deadline of breaking ground within three to four months for an opening in the first quarter of 2019.”
Despite the planned hotel’s location within the city’s urban core redevelopment district, however, developers have proposed a suburban-style design that differs somewhat from the surrounding development. The planned hotel wouldn’t face 9th Avenue, and the bulk of the planned 110 parking spaces would be located in front of the hotel, rather than behind it, as is common with urban hotels. The site plan doesn’t depict any on-street entrances to the hotel, only an entrance from the hotel’s parking lot.
Architect Philip Partington said Wednesday that the hotel “will totally engage the street,” and will include a bar, noting that while the hotel’s floor plan hasn’t been finalized, a 9th Avenue entrance to the bar and hotel is a possibility. Partington also said that the Hilton Garden Inn is just the first phase of development on the site. A future building on the northern half of the property may well front 9th Avenue and/or Salamanca Street, effectively enclosing the parking lot. The site plan was chosen in part because it preserves eight mature live oak trees on the site, two of which are heritage oaks, Partington added.
Gallery: Hilton Garden Inn hotels in other downtown areas
While the hotel project is located within the city’s Gateway Review District and thus requires approval by the city’s Gateway Review Board, there are few detailed regulations to guide development in the district, located on the eastern edges of Pensacola’s downtown area. Buildings in the district can’t be taller than 100 feet, must adhere to certain signage rules, and are required to screen parking with landscaping or fences.
Board members are scheduled to discuss the hotel plan at their March 13 meeting.
It’s unclear whether plans for Aloft and Element hotels in Pensacola are totally dead. Aloft’s website was recently updated and now reflects a Pensacola opening date of May 2023, while Element’s website still shows a Pensacola hotel opening in June of this year. Company officials did not immediately return a request for comment.
The new hotel would be located immediately north of a planned $35 million mixed use development spearheaded by Pensacola developer Bob Montgomery. City council members voted last year to sell the 2.2-acre site to Montgomery’s Hawkshaw Redevelopment Group; that sale closed this month. Construction on the project is set to begin this summer, with completion expected by March 2019.