|By Josh Salman, The Bradenton
HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 15, 2012--MANATEE -- The corporate owners of a hotel proposed by the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee as a possibility for student housing want the college to stop talking.
The Annapolis-based Thayer Lodging Group has sent a letter of cease-and-desist to university officials instructing the school to no longer mention Hilton Garden Inn among its plans for expansion.
USF had previously pitched the 115-room hotel just north of its campus along U.S. 41 in South Manatee as a possibility for student housing under its $50 million blueprint for growth, which will include underclassmen for the first time when school opens Aug. 27.
But Thayer has requested USF stop referencing its hotel in public forums without obtaining prior written approval.
In its letter, the company also noted that a map outlining the university's official plans for expansion include the hotel and some surrounding property owned by an investment fund that's managed by Thayer.
Representatives from the company did not return phone calls seeking comment.
"The Hilton Garden Inn remains a hotel serving the needs of the Sarasota tourist community and will so for the indefinite future," the letter states. "Articles that mention a change in purpose negatively impacts the ongoing enterprise value of our hotel."
USF's plan calls for a new $25 million academic hub, on-campus housing and an aquatic center on the Powel Crosley Estate. The total investment during the first five years is expected to reach $50 million.
As part of the expansion, USF also will develop some
commercial property lining U.S. 41 through public-private partnerships as a means to encourage new services that cater to students -- like coffee shops, retail and pizza parlors.
The idea to turn Hilton Garden into student dormitories was first brought to the school's attention about a year ago by a Realtor after the property went on the market for sale.
USF also has been meeting regularly with the hotel's local management to discuss the university's long-range plan, including the vision for Hilton Garden, said Dennis Stover, regional vice chancellor for advancement.
USF officials previously estimated the hotel acquisition would cost upwards of $9 million.
Some renovations also would be necessary to make the rooms suitable for student living, Stover said.
Meanwhile, Thayer's letter dismissed the price mentioned by USF and says the two parties never have formally discussed the proposal.
Stover said if the hotel is indeed out of play, it wouldn't damper the university's plans.
A study is now underway to vet exactly how much student housing will be needed.
"This won't be a problem at all," he said "We have some space both on-campus and off where we can build. The logical growth would be to the north ... They're a business. They don't want people to think they're going under."
Thayer presently owns a portfolio of 17 hotels encompassing 4,158 guest rooms. The company has eight properties in Florida, more than any other state.
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman
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