Make us your home page

The graceful old Fenway Hotel in Dunedin blighted by trash, vandals, squatters

DUNEDIN — The former splendor of the historic Fenway Hotel is now blighted by graffiti.

Broken glass, concrete, shingles and other trash lay scattered across the once-lush lawn.

Police reports document neighbors' complaints about children and vagrants climbing through shattered windows or rotting doors to play or sleep inside the hotel.

Relief is on the way. A judge has appointed a receiver to oversee upkeep while the Fenway is entangled in foreclosure proceedings.

City officials say the appointee, Bruce Keene, has already begun meeting with Dunedin code enforcement to establish a regular maintenance schedule. Officials anticipate the move will help cure concerns from residents, law enforcement, firefighters, the bank and the city about repeated vandalism, trespassing and code violations at the waterfront landmark.

"In its current condition, there are a number of code violations, so we plan on cleaning those up and securing the property," said Keene, president of Franklin Street Management Services, a commercial real estate and property management firm. "There are no big plans for improvement or anything right now. It's just a matter of getting control and preserving the property as it is."

Pinellas Circuit Judge Anthony Rondolino appointed Keene on May 15 at the urging of PNC Bank, which postponed an April foreclosure action while it completed a corporate merger, taking over RBC Bank.

PNC officials said in an emergency motion for a receiver that they hadn't been able to reset the auction date because the hotel's owner, George Rahdert, ignored their requests to access, inspect and appraise the property at 453 Edgewater Drive as needed to make sound bidding decisions.

The bank couldn't legally access the property because Rahdert still owns the hotel. Rahdert had envisioned restoring the 1920s hotel to its heyday when he purchased it for $8 million in 2006. But the project was derailed and Rahdert now owes the bank $10.8 million in loans, interest and other fees.

Rahdert said he sank tens of thousands of dollars into the property for things like architectural planning, repairs and regular lawn mowing as he scrambled to secure another buyer, business partner or other funding source to turn the Fenway into a high-end resort.

He abandoned his efforts in February. In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Rahdert denied PNC's claims that he had been uncooperative.

"When they set it up for sale, I thought it was time for me to let go … to avoid getting sideways," said Rahdert, a preservationist and attorney whose firm represents the Times on First Amendment and business issues.

In making its case that the hotel's condition was diminishing its value, PNC listed the concerns of Dunedin's former fire marshal about broken windows and dismantled fire safety devices.

The bank also cited the 23-page code enforcement violation notice that Dunedin sent to Rahdert in January. Photos accompanying the violation document the deterioration.

"The neglected conditions of the structures and property is a blighting effect for the surrounding neighborhood," the violation notice said.

The Times last week also obtained law enforcement reports showing Pinellas County sheriff's deputies responded to the hotel at least six times regarding alarms, juvenile trouble, suspicious persons and vehicles during the first four months of 2012.

Sheriff's deputies who responded April 5 to a neighbor's complaint about juveniles trespassing saw an adult male flee the building. Authorities found a bed in a second-floor room, along with fresh food, men's clothing and other items — evidence that transients have been living inside the vacant building. (The suspected vagrant was eventually arrested on charges that he stole wire and copper piping, reports show.)

In a memo to Dunedin law enforcement officers and city staff, Pinellas deputy W. Spencer Gross warned those who must enter to use extreme caution while navigating debris and sharp objects on the floor and hanging from the ceiling. Gross' report said a member of Keene's firm told deputies he would recommend a chain link fence for the property to help secure it.

According to Rahdert, the state has preliminarily approved recommending that the hotel be placed on the National Register of Historic Places once renovation work begins. For a time, it was the site of Schiller International University.

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

City Manager Rob DiSpirito wouldn't give specifics but said at least one serious buyer is eyeing the property and has been in talks with the bank.

"It's, from what we can see, a very legitimate hotel developer with experience in renovations. And that's exactly the type of person we want interested," DiSpirito said, "so we're going to nurture that and keep our fingers crossed."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to

The graceful old Fenway Hotel in Dunedin blighted by trash, vandals, squatters 06/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 3:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]