Thursday, January 18, 2018
Business

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 tampabay.com/letters.

   
Comments
Crystal Lagoon planners brace for chilly ribbon cutting today

Crystal Lagoon planners brace for chilly ribbon cutting today

WESLEY CHAPEL — Mother Nature seems to have a way of putting a chill on one of the hottest amenities in residential real estate development.Members of the business community, elected officials and officers with Metro Development Group and Crystal Lag...
Published: 01/18/18
Apple to build second campus, hire 20,000 in $350B pledge

Apple to build second campus, hire 20,000 in $350B pledge

Associated PressSAN FRANCISCO — Apple is planning to build another corporate campus and hire 20,000 workers during the next five years as part of a $350 billion commitment to the United States that will be partially financed by an upcoming windfall f...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa called Wednesday for artists to send in their ideas for a big piece of public art for the outdoor plaza between one of the $3 billion project’s office buildings and the new University of South Florida Morsani College of Med...
Published: 01/17/18
Tourism brought in record $112 billion to Florida in 2016

Tourism brought in record $112 billion to Florida in 2016

Tourism brought in a record $112 billion to Florida’s economy in 2016, up about 3 percent from 2015, according to Visit Florida figures released Wednesday. About 10 percent — $88 billion — of the state’s gross domestic product came from tourism in 20...
Published: 01/17/18
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Published: 01/17/18
Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

The latest on developments in financial markets (All times local):4 p.m.Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones industrial average to its first close above 26,000 points.The Dow had traded above that level on Tuesday but wound...
Published: 01/17/18
Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

DADE CITY — More than 36 million Americans practice yoga, but many people still feel intimidated by the ancient method of controlling the body and mind through physical and mental practices.Perhaps it is the daunting terms or confusing poses that cau...
Published: 01/17/18
Behold: The fastest cars at this year’s Detroit Auto Show

Behold: The fastest cars at this year’s Detroit Auto Show

DETROIT — Despite all the hype surrounding auto shows, let’s get real for a moment: The majority of the vehicles on display will end up ferrying kids to soccer practice, embarking on road trips and commuting between work and home each day.That’s unde...
Published: 01/17/18
This is why clothing companies want to know about your weight, jobs and past pregnancies

This is why clothing companies want to know about your weight, jobs and past pregnancies

The first step for a shopper buying a suit at the fast-growing menswear retailer Indochino is sharing his personal information: A salesperson armed with an iPad measures nearly everything on his body, from the distance between his belly button and re...
Published: 01/17/18
TECO, Duke linemen to help restore power in Puerto Rico

TECO, Duke linemen to help restore power in Puerto Rico

TAMPA — As more than 1.5 million people in Puerto Rico remain powerless, local linemen are stepping up and flying out to the island to help restore electricity. On Wednesday morning, 25 linemen boarded a flight from Tampa International Airport to Pu...
Published: 01/17/18