Developer unveils 3D model, renderings of Biltmore proposal

He envisions a boutique inn that uses the historic building's materials and decorations.

Published May 29 2014
Updated May 30 2014

If the developer pursuing redevelopment of the historic Belleview Biltmore in Belleair gets his way, he says much of the property — including the colors, window shapes and even some of the building materials and decorations — would stay the same.

JMC Communities CEO Michael Cheezem shared a 3-D model and 2-D renderings of his $115 million proposal with the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday.

The firm envisions building a three- or four-level boutique inn that mimics the original hotel's colors and Queen Anne-style architecture at the terminus of a tree-lined Belleview Boulevard. It would be erected where a pagoda lobby now stands.

"It's kind of the anchor of the community," Cheezem said. "The architectural proportions are very nearly exact."

Twenty-eight townhomes would sit to the east of the tree-lined entrance on what is vacant land, and to the west of existing single-family homes.

The inn and a community pool would be ringed by four condominium buildings featuring up to 30 units each. The proposal calls for four levels of condos and two levels of penthouses above two levels of parking — one above and one below ground.

Cheezem said the parking plan will leave plenty of space for retention ponds and Bermuda grass that will create a park-like setting reminiscent of the nearby golf course.

The 3-D model also emphasizes the contentious issue of the proposed project's scale in relation to surrounding buildings.

The average height of existing nearby residential buildings is 89 feet, with the Seaside condos peaking at 110 feet, Cheezem said.

Under his proposal, the condos would reach 84 feet tall and the two-story townhomes about 30 feet. The roughly 30-room inn would be 44 feet tall, and feature front and rear porches, and meeting space that Cheezem said could be used for weddings or other small group functions. The inn also might have a food or retail component.

"We certainly want this to be a focal point within the community," he said. "We want this to be a place people want to come on a regular basis."

The plan is a departure from the one Cheezem touted when he entered contract negotiations in January.

Cheezem had wanted to preserve and build atop the original structure's lobby and restaurant, but said cost and worries about meeting current building code standards made that plan unworkable.

Instead, he said, he will incorporate the old hotel's oak floors, doors, moldings, column details and Tiffany glass into the new design. The inn is also envisioned to feature plaques, photographs and possibly a video display where visitors can learn about famous past guests, milestones and the hotel's significance.

"The idea will be to take and use as much of that as we reasonably can in the end," he said.

The proposal has won the unanimous support of homeowner association leaders for the 553-member residential district surrounding the hotel.

"We feel the plan complements the surrounding property owners very well and, while it presents it in a new light, still preserves the history and heritage in a way that's workable and sustainable and benefits the entire community as opposed to a hotel that's falling apart," Cheezem said.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at k[email protected] or (727) 445-4153.