Grayl's Hotel on Beach Drive to close for extreme makeover

Published January 17 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — The new owner of the historic Grayl's Hotel at 340 Beach Drive NE hoped he could keep the 1922 hotel open while making major renovations. But because plans call for most of the interior of the three-story hotel to be gutted, it's not possible.

"We are closing the doors. … I have crossed my fingers we will be back open Nov. 15," said Chuck Prather, who bought the property at a bank auction for $2.8 million in May. He plans to spend $6 million on renovations and additions.

A fourth-floor ballroom and a rooftop lounge will be added to the hotel. The second and third floors will have nine rooms each. When it reopens, Prather will call the hotel the Birchwood.

The city of St. Petersburg has awarded Grayl's with historic designation, so Prather will get a small tax break for 10 years. The building had been modified too much by previous owners to qualify for national historic designation or federal tax credits.

The general contractor is Ed Taylor Construction in Tampa. The architectural firm is the Arcus Group in Cleveland. The interior architectural firm is Urban Studios in Ybor City. Prather, who has developed federal buildings in Tampa and elsewhere, has worked with all three previously.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or [email protected]