Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

Fenway Hotel purchase appears to unravel

DUNEDIN — The Fenway Hotel purchase that had appeared to be a done deal seems to be unraveling. Pennsylvania developer Christy Bower says PNC Bank, which is foreclosing on the historic but deteriorating waterfront property at 453 Edgewater Drive, stopped talking to her a month ago after a breakdown in negotiations.

The bank may have turned to the other bidder for the property, the Taoist Tai Chi Society of the United States of America, which had been pursuing a deal last summer. Neither the society, which said it was under a confidentiality agreement, nor PNC would comment. Franklin Street Management Services, the receiver appointed by a judge in 2012 to oversee upkeep during foreclosure proceedings, did not return a call seeking comment.

"We just couldn't finalize that last part of the agreement, so they're back with the tai chi group," Bower told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday. "It's not a lack of interest at all. We'll go to bat again but right now our hands are kind of tied.."

Bower and her father-turned-business partner James Bower had proposed razing the landmark and building in its place a 90-room boutique hotel featuring 1920s interiors and artifacts, about 30 waterside condos and up to 19,000 square feet of conference space. The hotel would be similar in size and retain the same look and name as the original Fenway.

In March, they said PNC had verbally accepted their offer and made the closing date contingent on final city approval. Since then, Dunedin has paved the way by approving multiple ordinance changes and the Bowers have poured "a lot" of money into architectural renderings and other criteria in anticipation of receiving the final okay this July.

The 50,000-member tai chi society last year said it hoped to renovate the property into a hotel and practice space for people attending workshops and formal instruction in tai chi, a centuries-old form of slow-moving, Chinese-influenced exercise. The international health and wellness group said its Toronto headquarters draws thousands of people a year from around the world, and the Fenway would similarly function as its U.S. hub.

Meanwhile, a group of residents and merchants — who say they prefer a public hotel and residential development that will revive the Fenway's nostalgia, boost convention tourism and generate tax revenue, unlike the private nonprofit tai chi society — are organizing an email and phone campaign demanding answers of the bank and society.

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

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