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Plant City Observer Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014 4 years ago

Red Rose Inn & Suites back on market

by: Amber Jurgensen Managing Editor

The Red Rose Inn & Suites is back on the market, listed in mid-February for $3.95 million, through Florida Executive Commercial Brokers Inc.

LBMT Properties LLC, led by Louis Spiro, of Pinellas Park, purchased the 280-room Red Rose for $1.5 million at the beginning of the year.

Because the Red Rose and 7.8-acre property sat vacant for 18 months, Spiro knew the property needed maintenance before he re-listed it.

Since the purchase, he’s been working to polish the grounds by sprucing up the parking lot, painting the exterior and adding some landscaping. Wire that had been stolen from the banquet room was replaced. But the lobby underwent the most dramatic change, a transformation from the nostalgic “Gone with the Wind” motif former owner Evelyn Madonia loved to a more modern look.

“It looks so fresh,” said FECB President Kiran Patel. “What we have here is a substantial asset. The property has the potential to be a great hotel again.”

Among the assets include the lobby with a full-service restaurant and bar that can seat up to 250 people and a free-standing ballroom that can seat up to 450 people. The rooms were utilized often by the community in the past before the Red Rose closed. Charity events, such as Dancing with the Locals and the Rainbow Ball, were held at the Red Rose. Since the closing, local organizations have had to use different venues.

Spiro did not attend the Aug. 16 auction last year, in Lakeland, which featured the Red Rose, as well as a plethora of other properties and equipment owned by Evelyn and Batista Madonia. At the auction, a $2.1 million bid was placed for the Red Rose but not accepted. It was $100,000 less than the Madonias paid in 2002, not to mention the $4 million they spent in renovations.

The Madonias had made their fortune in the tomato business as East Coast Brokers & Packers. When the Madonias’ daughter, Laurie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, the family took a step back from the business to care for her.

They searched for a cure taking her everywhere — from Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, to the Vatican. She died two years ago. Her illness, coupled with bad harvest seasons from freezes, a hurricane and a battle with cheap Mexican tomatoes, led to the family’s financial difficulties.

The real estate and equipment assets of East Coast Brokers & Packers have been sold through several auctions handled by Murray Wise Associates, through Crosby and Associates Inc., Woltz & Associates and Weeks Auction Co. Inc. The sales, including the Red Rose, generated $77.3 million, but creditors are owed at least $100 million.

The Madonias’ fall captivated the Tampa Bay area, including Spiro. He first heard the story of the Red Rose on the news. It piqued his interest in investing in the forgotten hotel.

Patel, who specializes in hotels, said there has been several inquiries about the Red Rose. But, it hasn’t even been on the market for a month. Usually, at about the month mark, more inquiries will come, he said.

Contact Amber Jurgensen at [email protected].

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