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TAMPA, FL-Williamsburg, VA-based MHI Hospitality Group has started work on a $34 million project to convert a former Clarion Hotel at 5303 W. Kennedy Blvd. into an 11-story, 250-room Crowne Plaza. The hotel, which will include 10,000 sf of meeting space, is expected to open in the first quarter 2009. IThe property is owned by MHI Hospitality Corp., under a license agreement with a company in the InterContinental Hotels Group. MHI Hospitality Corp. COO David Folsom tells GlobeSt.com that MHI acquired the hotel in October for $13.6 million. The hotel was closed after the purchase and will undergo a more than $21 million improvement plan.

Folsom says work started on the project started in October with the liquidation of furniture, fixtures and equipment. Some demolition that is permitted for renovations continues on the property in preparation for the issuance of building permits in March 2008. The hotel will have all new guest rooms and bathrooms and a new glazing system, ballroom, courtyard, roof and parapet, restaurant expansion, porte-cochere, landscaping and paving.

The hotel is near Interstate 275, one mile from the entrance to Tampa International Airport, and overlooks Tampa Bay and the Westshore Business District. “The Crowne Plaza will be in the heart of the Westshore Overlay District comprised of business and retail development within the affluent residential community,” Folsom says. “In this hub of business and commercial activity is 11 million sf of commercial office space and 4,000 businesses with nearly 100,000 employees.”

The project is the second that InterContinental Hotels Group has started in recent months in Florida. Construction on a 150-room Crowne Plaza hotel in Fort Lauderdale, near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, began recently. “IHG currently has over 10 Crowne Plaza properties open or in the pipeline in Florida,” Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, the Americas, VP, brand management Gina LaBarre tells GlobeSt.com. “These properties are located in several key cities and are in great locations for business travelers. A few of our most recent openings include the Crowne Plaza Hollywood Beach Resort, Crowne Plaza Miami-Kendall and Crowne Plaza Jacksonville-Riverfront.”

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