Auction of Dunedin's historic Fenway Hotel is delayed by bank

The Fenway Hotel was bought in 2006 for $8 million by George Rahdert, who hoped to restore the property to its past grandeur.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2011)

The Fenway Hotel was bought in 2006 for $8 million by George Rahdert, who hoped to restore the property to its past grandeur.

DUNEDIN — The online auction of Dunedin's historic Fenway Hotel was canceled Wednesday while the bank attempting to foreclose on the property completes a corporate merger.

RBC Bank, which was acquired by PNC Bank last year, said in a court filing that it is also in the process of obtaining a property value assessment on the 6.4-acre waterfront tract at 453 Edgewater Drive. A new auction date will be set once the matters are resolved, documents show.

The forthcoming public sale is RBC's final step in its multi-million dollar foreclosure lawsuit against developer George Rahdert of St. Petersburg, who had envisioned restoring the 1920s hotel. Rahdert purchased the hotel for $8 million in 2006 and now owes the bank $10.8 million in loans, interest and other fees.

If a third-party investor fails to outbid RBC at the upcoming auction, the lender will take back possession of the property, giving the bank authority to start negotiating with potential buyers.

"I'd like to get some closure. This delays the process," said Rahdert, a preservationist and attorney whose firm represents the Tampa Bay Times on First Amendment and business issues. "For the sake of the community, it needs to get out of limbo and move forward."

The Fenway's storied past includes briefly housing Pinellas County's first radio station, then, according to the Dunedin Historical Society, serving for several decades as a playground for rich and famous guests such as baseball great Babe Ruth, representatives of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration, and several silent film actors.

It became the campus of Trinity Bible College in 1961, then Schiller International University in 1991 before Rahdert bought it with dreams of revamping and expanding the facility into a 132-room high-class resort with a spa, ballrooms and fine dining.

However, the developer quickly encountered what he calls a "calamity of errors" in the form of neighbors who protested an expansion of the structure and former city officials who delayed redevelopment, he said.

The BP oil spill and the continued recession further hampered his efforts, Rahdert said. After foreclosure proceedings were filed, Rahdert said, he presented a buyer to the bank, but the bank rejected the $7.1 million offer.

A version of this story appears in other editions of the Times.

Auction of Dunedin's historic Fenway Hotel is delayed by bank 04/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 9:16pm]

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