Historic Floridan to re-open

TAMPA — Shuttered since 1987, the Floridan Hotel, once Tampa's grandest and tallest building that catered to the likes of Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart and Elvis Presley, became a home to vultures and vermin for decades.

So when a development group led by Antonios Markopoulos bought the hotel in 2005 for $6 million and vowed to bring it back to its historic grandeur, great anticipation followed from city council members and business owners looking forward to the hotel's resurrection.

They had to wait seven years, but the restoration of the landmark hotel built in 1926 on the north end of downtown is finally complete.

Giant crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling in the lobby. Olive and gold couches and chairs rest on the marble floor. The brass beer spouts in the piano lobby bar are ready to pour while a black and gold ornate fence separates a dining area from the foyer. Gold cubby holes for hotel keys and messages gleam behind the front counter while the floral rosette medallion patterned lobby ceiling, repainted green and yellow, has been intricately restored.

Renamed the "Floridan Palace," the newly restored boutique hotel will hold a private grand opening party on July 28 with city leaders and celebrities, going operational just in time for the Republican National Convention a month later, said Angelo Markopoulos, Antonios' son.

The 19-story building's original 426 rooms have been cut to a more spacious 196 rooms, two penthouse suites and 15 junior executive suites. Furnished in the neoclassical architectural Beaux-Arts style, the hotel has been updated with flat screens, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, high-speed wireless Internet service and a 24-hour concierge.

Its historic bar, the Sapphire Room, just to the left of the Cass Street entrance, also has been restored to its 1920s state when it was nicknamed the "Sure Fire Room" because of its reputation for romantic hookups. A square-shaped wooden bar sits in the center of the dark, small room guarded by frosted glass doors. The bar will once again serve its signature "Between the Sheets" martini, also known as a Maiden's Prayer, which was created by the hotel's bartender in the 1930s. Using brandy, rum and triple sec, the drink is distinctive because it lacks gin or vodka like most martinis, Angelo Markopoulos said.

The restored hotel also will feature the Crystal Dining Room restaurant serving Mediterranean and Continental cuisine. Future renovations call for a vintage barber shop, spa, tennis and swimming pools.

Antonios Markopoulos, who owns a home in Greece that has passed through his family for 800 years, moved in the 1950s from Greece to Canada, where he opened a car repair shop and nightclubs in Montreal, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Washington, D.C. He moved to Florida in the 1980s and bought the Days Inn on Clearwater Beach, assembling five properties there with plans to build a sprawling waterfront hotel. But after resistance from city officials, he sold the property for $40 million.

Besides the Floridan, at least two other boutique, luxury hotels are in various development stages. Memphis-based Development Services Group plans to spend at least $25 million restoring the 107-year-old Old Tampa Courthouse just blocks away while Mainsail Lodging & Development and the owner of Bern's Steak House plan to break ground this fall on the $32.5 million Epicurean hotel on S Howard Avenue.

Justin George can be reached at jgeorge@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3368.

Historic Floridan to re-open 07/20/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 28, 2012 2:25pm]

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