Kanti Patel: Playing monopoly with real hotels

St. Augustine’s hotel business is good, and the man former Mayor George Gardner describes as “the city’s most successful hotelier” apparently believes that it can get better.

This year, Kanti Patel has added the former Exchange Bank building to his holdings.  The 10-story Cathedral Place landmark that can never be eclipsed in height was purchased in January for $10 million dollars under the “Kasam Hospitality” identity. 

Most recently, though, in September 2018, under “Vista Hotel VIII”, Patel purchased another “skyscraper” of sorts, the “Historic Solla-Carcaba Building” located at 88 Riberia Street.  He paid a cool $2.25 million dollars.

The Solla-Carcaba building went up in 1910 and is the last standing cigar factory in St Augustine; a reminder of an industry that was prosperous at the end of the 19th century.  The laborers worked at tables under the extra-high ceilings atop the fourth floor, where the windows were flung open wide and the unobstructed ocean breeze provided what would pass for “St Johns County air conditioning”.

Many Cuban immigrants settled in Ybor City (Tampa) bringing their tobacco seeds and know-how with them.  Several families continued to St Augustine where they set out to recapture the industry that had sustained them for generations back home.

An appliance store stood where today the wide concrete staircase faces Riberia Street.  When the store closed, local architect Howard Davis purchased the building and began a restoration project in the early 1980’s, but it would not be completed before his death.  Heavily in debt, and with Howard’s energy no longer around to shepherd the project through, Edward and Harriet Mussallem bought the mortgage from First Union National Bank.  In 2007 they brought in their daughter Marsha and her husband Jim Byles and, together with a partner, they converted the building into office and professional space.

Before St Augustine was deluged with brackish, unsanitary water that accompanied our first hurricane, Historic City News was a tenant and published from the lower lobby level of the Solla-Carcaba Building.  At the parking and street level, the entire building was flooded, and we lost everything.

Patel’s vision is that the hundred-year-old building will become a 50-room hotel. The former bank building on Cathedral Place is largely under lease.  So far, at least publicly, Patel has not announced firm plans for its future — at least a part of which is rumored to become high-end hotel rooms.

Not that the reputed large-scale developer hasn’t enough to keep him busy, besides Solla-Carcaba and Cathedral Place, Patel’s real estate holdings also include the former St Augustine-St Johns County Chamber of Commerce building at 1 Riberia Street.

He purchased the property near the time he negotiated most of the homes along West Castillo Drive.  He is in the process of building a Renaissance Hotel; a lofty recreation of the one-time San Marco Hotel that stood on the site. The Chamber purchase in 2015 was for $750,000 and made under the name “Avak Hotels Group Two Inc”.  Patel, amid quarrelsome objections from a considerable number of residents, convinced the city’s Historic Architectural Review Board to re-zone the property from HP-5 to Planned Unit Development.

Patel has also been working on, but so far denied, plans for a Hilton Garden Inn on the former Bozard Ford site that runs between San Marco Avenue and North Ponce de Leon Boulevard in North City.  But not all of Patel’s hotel properties are still under construction.  His “Jalaram Hotels” include the Hilton Historic Bayfront, Holiday Inn St Augustine, Hampton Inn Historic, Best Western Bayfront Inn, Best Western Historical Inn, and Best Western St. Augustine Beach.

Now, if he starts looking into railroads …. .radius+serie

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  1. The hotel properties that Kanti Patel owns/operates are attractive and well-maintained. Since the properties he purchased were for sale, I am pleased that it was he who purchased them. As a resident, I too once enjoyed St Augustine as a visitor/tourist so much so that we chose to move here and call this home. We knew when we moved here from Central Florida that St Augustine was a popular tourist destination due to its beauty, the friendly people, its coastline, the bay front and historical attractions. I live downtown and often become annoyed or irritated when traffic is at a standstill or I cannot find a place to park downtown. Then I have that quick reality check of sitting gridlocked in the Jacksonville, Tampa, or Atlanta traffic and breathe a sigh of relief that I only had to wait for 5-10 minutes for traffic to disperse or to clear the traffic light. In addition, I am able to walk to the library, the beach, uptown shops, the Mission grounds, to the historic district, to various marinas, and through beautiful residential areas. In my opinion, life is pretty darned good in St Augustine.

  2. Partial agreement and disagreement with the above comment. First, St. Augustine is not just a downtown. It’s total area is 12.74 mi². There are many types of options. One can live in various communities throughout the 12.74 mi. A new one is going up north of our Executive airport. There are grocery stores all over the place and many of them have drug stores. A growing community means more jobs and more taxes paid into our system. “Stop with tourism”. Well, that might work in Idaho, Wyomig, Iowa, etc. Our climate invites those who no longer want to shovel snow. This entire state has increased by 330,000 this year. In 2017, I moved here from 51 years living in Fort Lauderdale, so I understand the writes discontent. BTW, still under 18,000 people here. I departed Fort Lauderdale because that wasn’t livable for me. This is. Moreover, that’s life. People move around, travel, enjoy restaurants, movies, theater & in St. A, people are making $$$$ which is a good thing. It’s very livable here for me—agree that we could use some more affordable housing. Perhaps with more hotels & more jobs people could live in more affordable housing.

  3. No more hotels we have enough we need affordable housing for people. We need that property on riberia to be efficiency housing. You know you have all these hotels you need people to work in them and they need to live somewhere near where they work. As residents are getting tired of all of this catering to tourist s. We live here we cannot move around we stay home we start resenting Saint Augustine because it is so perfect for tourist s. Enough already stop with tourism. Is there a pharmacy downtown? A grocery store? A department store? No nothing that is practical for people who live here. Enough already! What about Mobility and livability and a sense of place? When I heard a respected real estate agent in town, say we were over the top, I didn’t believe her, I do now, our town is not livable for us anymore. Truly sad

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