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Architect's claim he has funds to restore Biltmore met with skepticism

The managing member of Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC said Monday the group had secured funding to buy and fix the hotel. The hotel’s owners want to tear down the landmark, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and redevelop the property.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

The managing member of Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC said Monday the group had secured funding to buy and fix the hotel. The hotel’s owners want to tear down the landmark, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and redevelop the property.

BELLEAIR — Partners of a South Florida architect who has spent years trying to raise enough money to buy and restore the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel said Monday that they have finally secured funding — though they won't reveal the investors' names or amount they have pledged.

Gary Rosenberg, managing member of Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC, said he, tourism professional Charles Kropke and Richard Heisenbottle, the Coral Gables architect who has been leading the longtime restoration pursuit, have received a funding "commitment" from a private equity group. The money, he said, would cover purchase of the hotel and the adjacent, town-owned Biltmore Golf Course.

BBP has been trying to buy the hotel, shuttered in 2009, since April 2012 and received multiple contract extensions from the owners, but the offer was dropped in October after BBP said an investor backed out. In December, BBP offered Belleair $3.5 million for the golf course, but town staff rejected the bid.

"We believe that this wonderful, wonderful asset is absolutely restorable," Rosenberg said.

At 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Belleair commissioners are meeting to consider reducing the minimum acreage required for hotels so the adjacent Belleair Country Club can buy a portion of the Biltmore property.

Rosenberg said that prior to the meeting, his group hopes to meet with each commissioner and St. Petersburg developer Mike Cheezem, who has a contract to buy the hotel from Miami owners Raphael and Daniel Ades. He said BBP would "certainly show (commissioners) our funding documents," if asked.

But Cheezem said Monday he has every intention "to close and build the project we're planning" — condos and perhaps a boutique hotel.

And Clearwater attorney Ed Armstrong, who represents the Ades brothers, said "the contract is not for sale" and that "it's time to move on."

Belleair Mayor Gary Katica said he would meet with BBP officials if asked, but he's skeptical of Heisenbottle's latest funding claim.

"You know how many times we've heard that?" he said. "I may look like I fell off the back of a turnip truck, but I really didn't."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or ksummers@tampabay.com.

Architect's claim he has funds to restore Biltmore met with skepticism 03/31/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 11:53pm]
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