Westin Finally Brings Hotel Attention Downtown



A groundbreaking for the Westin Sarasota last week marked more than the start of a new project for the Kolter Group. It marked the arrival of a long-desired piece of economic development in Downtown Sarasota—a high-end hotel.

"Our local economy will benefit greatly from having a Westin hotel in downtown Sarasota," said Norm Gollub, Sarasota downtown economic development coordinator. "The downtown community welcomes the opportunity to provide restaurant and retail experiences within a short walking distance of the hotel. Having a Westin property will certainly help the efforts of Visit Sarasota and other organizations as they continue to attract significant events to our area."

The $300-million project, at the corner of Gulfstream Boulevard and U.S. 41, includes both the 255-room Westin hotel and The Vue, a 141-unit luxury condominium. 

James Hansen, Kolter Hospitality vice president of sales and marketing, said his company values the hotel and condo portions of the project equally. Bringing in the Westin brand, the first time Kolter has ever worked with Starwood Hotels, does mark a major milestone the company, which in the past has worked with flags like Hyatt and Marriott. "Based on our models and designs, that flag fit it well," Hansen said. "We like from a hotel perspective what we get with Westin. They stress wellness living and a full-service approach."

The hotel is projected to open in July 2016. “This new Westin hotel will inspire well-being in Sarasota, the cultural center of Southwest Florida, within close proximity of the city’s best theaters, arts and beaches,” said Brian Povinelli, global brand leader for Westin Hotels and Resorts. “Here, guests will enjoy all the Westin brand’s signature programs and amenities, designed to send guests home feeling better than when they arrived.” 

That is important as the hotel operates very near to a Ritz-Carlton, and it contributes to the image of Downtown Sarasota itself as a luxury destination, rather than leaving the high-end market to the waterfront resorts.

The Vue may be just as critical for Downtown in terms of ushering in the next era of high-end condo development. Several major condo efforts are expected to break ground in the next year. The Vue units will be brokered through Michael Saunders and Company, a Sarasota-based luxury real estate firm.

"I can think of no greater expression of confidence in the Sarasota housing and tourism markets than the simultaneous start of a construction project whose companion structures include a luxury waterfront condominium and a nationally-branded luxury hotel that will cost over $120 million to build," said Saunders, company founder. "Kolter’s vote of confidence in Sarasota is even more extraordinary given the fact that they took the unusual step of beginning construction on VUE Sarasota Bay before pre-selling a large percentage of the residences. Thus far their confidence has been rewarded with over $50 million in sales."

Photo Courtesy Michael Saunders and Company: Team responsible for the construction and sales of VUE Sarasota Bay and The Westin Sarasota turn a ceremonial shovel of dirt at yesterday’s groundbreaking for the pair of bayfront structures.  L. to R., Bob Vail, James Hanson, Ed Jahn, Michael Saunders, Georgia Kopelousous, Lisa Morris and David Arent.

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