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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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Work finally starts on downtown St. Petersburg’s newest hotel

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly a decade after it was first proposed, a new boutique hotel in downtown St. Petersburg is finally under construction.

Workers are preparing the foundation of the Galaxy, an 11-story, 92-room hotel at Third Avenue N and First Street directly north off the Sundial shopping and entertainment plaza.

The city approved a site plan for the hotel in 2009 but developer and owner Savni Bakrac said today that he had to put the project on hold while architects redesigned the parking garage. Instead of being in the basement, as initially planned, it is now on the second level.

So frustrating were the delays and dealings with revised blueprints that "I almost thought I should give it up," Bakrac said of the project.

The Galaxy, due for completion in mid-2019, is a few blocks north of a 174-room Hyatt Place that opened last fall next to the still-under-construction ONE St. Petersburg condo tower. Unlike the Hyatt, the Galaxy will not carry the flag of a major hotel chain.

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"It’s a mid-size hotel and based on my experience I didn’t need an outside hotel (name)," Bakrac said.

Two decades ago, he bought the shuttered Ponce De Leon Hotel at 95 Central Ave. for $450,000 and renovated the historic 1920s building that now houses Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant. He also owns The Mansion Inn at 105 Fifth Avenue NE.

In 2009, Bakrac paid $725,500 for the narrow Galaxy site across from the movie theater in what was then called Baywalk. At the time, the plaza once hailed as a key to downtown’s revitalization was in foreclosure, had lost most of its tenants and struggled with the perception it was dangerous at night.

In 2011, entrepreneur Bill Edwards bought Baywalk and undertook a major renovation that added new shops and restaurants. It was reborn as Sundial four years ago, and has again become a popular spot.

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According to its web site, the Galaxy is "destined to be St. Petersburg, Florida’s premier downtown hotel." Renderings show an airy, gold-accented lobby with columns and a curved, floating stairway. Accommodations will include eight, two-room suites with balconies and four penthouse suites.

Plans also call for a restaurant, coffee/breakfast room and 4,000 square feet of meeting space.

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at [email protected] or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

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