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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Two significant projects are underway in Palmetto.
The first, a $48 million expansion of the Bradenton Convention Center, will add 14,000 square feet of extra event space, generating an estimated $25 to $30 million annually for the local economy.
What You Need To Know
- $48 million expansion of the Bradenton Convention Center, will add 14,000 square feet of extra event space, generating an estimated $25 to $30 million annually for the local economy
- The expansion to the convention center is set to open on Easter of 2025, and the new hotel is expected to open this spring
- Palmetto business owners say this will boost their business
“We are excited, but this should be just as exciting for urban core businesses,” said Elliott Falcione, the tourism director for Manatee County. “This is going to feed them year-round. The key words are diversification of revenue streams and sustainability, and that’s really what you need in a region to be successful.”
The second project, and the first to open this year, is the Marriott Hotel that will connect to the convention center.
Business owner Geoffrey Lowe said he is hoping the new hotel and convention center will boost his shaved ice shop.
His store, Pelican’s Snoballs, is fairly new to the Palmetto area.
“I’ve been doing this for just over three years,” he explained.
But in just a short time, his business has taken a hit.
“Discretionary income has gone down the tubes, and our sales have gone down every year,” he said, adding that his sales were down 20% from 2022 to 2023, and he’s not alone. “I see other companies and restaurants going out of business. A friend of mine had a business in Parrish, a pizza place, and he closed it up. They have new owners there now. It’s been a rough go around; it’s trying times.”
So, when he heard that the Bradenton Area Convention Center and Visitors Bureau is opening a new hotel in Palmetto and expanding their conference center, he said it was perfect timing.
“It’s going to bring Mayberry into the 21st century, so to speak. That’s what we are looking for, just bringing up the right clientele and customer base and spending some money,” he said.
The business owner got the opportunity to tour the new hotel, which is expected to bring in millions of dollars through tourism revenue. Officials say first-time visitors return 74% of the time within 12 months.
“It’s definitely a step up for the community,” Lowe said. “We have a lot of mom-and-pop shops in town.”
The 252-room Marriott Hotel will be connected directly to the convention center by a climate-controlled corridor. It will also include a rooftop VIP bar and lounge.
“It feels like a world-class environment,” Lowe said. “The view from the oyster bar up here is ridiculous. I mean, it really looks like you’re some place other than Palmetto. It raises our level to Tampa or the Miami experience.”
More visitors mean a brighter future for Lowe; he said he plans on owning this business for the next 15 years.
“Why do I love doing what I do? Because the product that we make is unique,” he said. “They had them all over this place in South Carolina where I used to live, and then I got down here, and I could really go for a snowball, and I said I need to open one here. This is my retirement job.”
He’s here for the long haul, excited about the prospect of more business from the upcoming improvements.
The expansion to the convention center is set to open on Easter of 2025, and the new hotel is expected to open this spring.