Sarasota Motel Owner outlines vision for North Tamiami Trail and revitalization of the North Trail
by: David Conway
By renovating his North Trail motel — and embracing some of its distinctive characteristics — Jay Patel hopes he can become a catalyst for long-awaited change in the area.
Patel owns the Regency Inn and Suites at 4200 N. Tamiami Trail. He’s been a part of the North Trail Redevelopment Partnership since 2007, and has served as a prominent voice calling for the revitalization of the area since then.
Patel said the North Trail is slowly improving — he points to the addition and success of Yummy House as an important step — but for all the talk about redevelopment, the area is still lagging behind where he’d like it to be.
The motels that line the trail are one of the most frequent targets of criticism. Although they vary in quality and character, taken together, they’re seen as symbols of the prostitution, drug-dealing and general delinquency that color many people’s perception of the northern part of U.S. 41.
As someone who was motivated to change that perception on a large scale, Patel decided the change could start with himself.
“I thought, OK, instead of just talking, let me step up and walk the walk,” Patel said.
Patel is pouring $450,000 into remodeling, repainting and otherwise upgrading his facility, but the makeover won’t render the property unrecognizable. Rather than demolish the motel and building anew, Patel hopes to highlight some of the distinguishing mid-century design of the motels that dot the North Trail.
Despite his interest in revitalizing the North Trail, the concept that some parts of the area were worth highlighting was initially difficult for Patel to accept. The more he talked with people who lived near or brought their businesses to the trail, though, the more he heard that they didn’t want broad change.
These people, Patel said, liked the funky character of the trail. They wanted to draw attention to the design behind the motels, to maintain the history even as things were cleaned up. Eventually, Patel heard enough that he became convinced it was a viable option for the Regency Inn.
“I didn’t believe in it before,” Patel said. “Now, I see there are demographics out there that want this kind of facility.”
The project has become a collaborative community effort. He’s gotten design help from architect David Morriss, president of the Indian Beach/Sapphire Shores Neighborhood Association. Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin has endorsed his efforts after a trip to the property, Patel said.