ST. PETERSBURG — The Parkview Hotel at 7401 Central Ave. is for sale once again amid complaints from neighbors that the historic property is an eyesore and a dangerous, unsecured structure that attracts trespassers and swarming bees.
"There has been quite a lot of interest," said Joseph Gargiulo, a representative of the current ownership group headed by Norman Kerr of Minneapolis. He didn't comment further.
Kerr's investment group bought the 66-room, Mediterranean revival hotel in 2007 for $3.7 million with big plans to convert it into a luxury property with a restaurant and swimming pool. But work on the 92-year-old building came to a standstill more than a year ago, and Kerr hasn't paid property taxes as the building racked up code violations.
Neighbors think the city has been too lenient with the owners by extending building permits, and it has been too lax in enforcing code violations.
"If it's such a valuable landmark, why isn't the city stepping in and making them take care of it?" said Monica Abbott, a community activist who lives behind the empty hotel. "(The owners) don't even do the minimum of maintenance. (The city has) really cut them a lot of slack. A lot more slack than they do most people, I think."
Grass isn't mowed enough. There are gaps in the sidewalk. A set of stairs are crumbling. "Danger" and "Beware" signs are posted in a few windows. The building isn't secured. Bees live between the walls.
"As you come in to the western end of the city from the beaches, we are very concerned about how bad this building looks. It makes the neighborhood look pathetic," said Abbott, who is a member of the Council of Neighborhood Associations board. "It's been going on so long. From 2004 to 2007 (the hotel) had drugs and prostitution. Then from 2007 to present it's been vacant."
City building official Rick Dunn said he understands neighbors' frustrations with the lack of progress.
"It's a local landmark. Even if I took it to the level of condemnation it would take years to get through that process," he said. "Our goal is to save the landmark building if it's getting done in a reasonable amount of time."
Though the "For Sale" sign just went up, Dunn said owners are in the process of resubmitting development plans since the existing building permits have expired.
"My understanding is the partnership wants to have the opportunity to bring other investors in," Dunn said. "With the economy like it is, we've had several buildings fall into disrepair."
Abbott recently called police when she saw teenagers congregating in the vacant hotel because much of the building's construction is not sound. She has also put Gargiulo in touch with a beekeeper who added a bee box to the property to lure the insects.
Abbott is worried that if Kerr's group rehabs the hotel in a lackluster way, it will attract the same transient, low-rent patrons that caused the police to be called to the building regularly several years back.
"If it can't be something substantially brought back and with stable owners and if it's just going to be a hotel again that's just repeating bad history," she said. "I'd love to see it divided into nice, large condos."
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or email@example.com.