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Developers are seeking preliminary approval this month for a planned 200-room dual-brand hotel development in downtown Pensacola.

First announced in January, hotel developer Mitesh Patel is planning to build two new hotels at the vacant lot where 9th Avenue and Salamanca Street converge at the eastern entrance to downtown.

The upscale hotels will be a combined development, with Starwood Hotels set to bring their Aloft and Element by Westin imprints under one roof.

A conceptual rendering of the proposed dual brand Aloft and Element Hotels in downtown Pensacola. (SMP Architecture/Special to The Pulse)

Project plans obtained by The Pulse show the developer wants to build a four-story hotel complex on the nearly five-acre site at 8 North 9th Avenue, adjacent to Gulf Power’s corporate headquarters and near the Pensacola Bay Center. The two hotels would be part of a single structure, with shared parking and amenities.

The hotels will feature 200 combined rooms primarily marketed to business travelers and visitors to downtown. If built, the hotels will follow the soon-to-be completed 106-room Holiday Inn Express on Main and Jefferson streets.

The now vacant property along 9th Avenue and Colfax Street was purchased in 2016 for $3 million. The site will soon be home to two new hotels downtown. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

The long-vacant parcels were purchased for $3 million last year by Patel’s Sai Laxmi Pensacola, LLC. Both parcels were previously owned by the Moulton family since 2006, but were foreclosed in 2015.

When searching for a new location to build his new hotels, Patel said he was guided to focus on two areas in the region.

“In actuality, they [Starwood] told us we would need to be either in downtown Pensacola or on Pensacola Beach,” said Patel. “Starwood gets a lot of data on the market demographics and with the upper-level hotel brands, they said we needed to be downtown.”

The Aloft brand is targeted at “the next generation of travelers,” featuring what company officials call “urban, modern design and a hip social experience.” Often located in city centers, near airports, or in other high-visibility areas, Aloft’s economical design and minimal staffing level have proven popular with developers and hoteliers, with 114 hotels now open worldwide and another 150 in the pipeline. The nearest Aloft hotels to Pensacola are located in Tallahassee and New Orleans.

A conceptual rendering of the proposed dual brand Alfot and Element Hotels in downtown Pensacola. (SMP Architecture/Special to The Pulse)

The Element by Westin brand is Starwood’s first collection of hotels designed to be environmentally friendly. According to the company, Element hotels are built eco-friendly from the ground up, including floors made of recycled materials as well as energy-efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures. With 22 current locations, Element has another 65 hotels planned. The Pensacola hotel will be the first Element on the Gulf Coast, with the nearest location in Houston.

“Our clientele will be made up of mostly millennials and modern travelers,” Patel added. “We really think that market is getting stronger in Pensacola.”

The project plans will go before the city’s Gateway Review Board April 11 for preliminary approval. Patel said he expects to have final approval by the city this spring, with construction taking 18-20 months for a 2018 opening date.

“We’d like to stick to the 2018 goal, said Patel. “I think that’s a realistic goal.”

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