One of Tampa’s original cigar factories could soon be a boutique hotel

They’ve been turned into offices, schools, restaurants and luxury apartments. And now one of Tampa’s original cigar factories could soon be a boutique hotel.


The former Balbin Bros. Cigar Factory at 1202 N. Howard Ave. was purchased for $1.4 million this week by a partnership between a Tampa hotelier and a Louisiana-based hospitality company. Though still in the early stages, plans call for a hotel with about 70 rooms that likely will be part of a major chain but with a name reflecting its local heritage, partner Mike Desai said Friday.

In its first Florida venture, Desai’s My Hospitality Hotels was attracted to the location just south of Interstate 275 because of the Jewish Community Center nearing completion and a 198-unit apartment complex planned nearby.

“Everything is moving north on Howard because everything south of Kennedy (Boulevard) is already developed,” Desai said. Although the immediate neighborhood is run down, “what we’re anticipating and hoping for is that some of the surrounding area gets bought up and a few nice restaurants come in to clean up the area. We’re hoping that JCC, the apartments and even this hotel could help boost the area a little.”


Dating to the early 1900s, the 35,000-square-foot factory hit the market late last year for just over $2 million. It was built in the traditional way, with a high-ceiling interior and tall windows on the north and south that allowed breezes to blow through and provided plenty of light for workers who sat at benches while a lector read to them.

“It actually is in surprisingly good shape,” Desai said. “I think the structure of the roof limited a lot of deterioration of the building . . . We don’t anticipate too many problem but it’s like opening a can of worms with an old building.”

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John William is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami, and has spent his lifetime in sales and marketing. The fourth generation to join his family business, John William manages all luxury residential sales and transactions within the Tampa Bay and South Florida markets. A keen industry insider with a finger on the pulse of the area, He is an expert identifying high-return acquisition and development opportunities for hungry investors both large and small while simultaneously working with homeowners and homebuyers to buy and sell the home of their dreams… often times without the need of the MLS or a For Sale sign. He also oversees all digital and print marketing for the company, and handles all sales training for new and established agents alike. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Brookwood Florida, the oldest charity in Florida, and works to raise millions of dollars annually for local charities and museums.