ST. PETERSBURG — Grayl's Hotel, at 340 Beach Drive NE, has been bought for $1.8 million by Chuck Prather, a developer of federal buildings around the country. He paid cash for the 21-room inn that Cornerstone Community Bank took control of after the former owners defaulted on $2.1 million.
"It's such a great property," Prather said. "I can't think of anywhere else in the state like Beach Drive."
He plans to invest a lot more money, gutting much of the hotel and adding a fifth floor with open space for receptions and a rooftop deck. All rooms will be renovated and redecorated, a new updated kitchen will be built, and an upscale restaurant will open where the current kitchen exists. All renovations and refurbishments will be done in keeping with the hotel's original 1922 style so that it can receive historic designation.
Southwind Hospitality will continue to manage the property, and all employees will keep their jobs. But one thing will change, the name.
"We're going to call it the Birchwood Inn," Prather said. His father developed a subdivision in Tennessee decades ago and named it Birchwood after "Mr. Birchfield," the farmer who sold him the land.
The patio restaurant and hotel will remain open as much as possible during renovations. Prather has contractors and architects standing by and plans to start work as soon as possible with hopes of finishing everything within a year.
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.