Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Belleair opens door to other development on Belleview Biltmore site

An aerial view of the Belleview Biltmore hotel, once known as the “White Queen of the Gulf.” The hotel hosted presidents, celebrities and generations of Pinellas County residents and guests. It closed in 2009.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2011)

An aerial view of the Belleview Biltmore hotel, once known as the “White Queen of the Gulf.” The hotel hosted presidents, celebrities and generations of Pinellas County residents and guests. It closed in 2009.

BELLEAIR — Conceding that options for restoring the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel look bleak, the Belleair Town Commission on Tuesday directed city staffers to explore zoning changes that would allow other types of development on the property.

The hotel's owners want to tear down the landmark, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and erect 32 townhomes and 136 condominiums. But first, they wanted to know if commissioners would be receptive.

Under BB Hotel LLC's proposal, the project would feature two-story townhomes with rear parking garages and seven floors of condos over ground-floor parking, architect Jim Graham said.

Units would range from 1,000 to 2,600 square feet and have up to four bedrooms. A fountain, pool, playground and tennis courts would be built, plus either a clubhouse or recreation center with a room for Biltmore photographs and other memorabilia.

The proposed buildings would mimic the Biltmore's Queen Anne-style architecture and white and green colors, Graham said. Developers would save the site's old oaks.

One by one, commissioners questioned the plan. And they wondered if a new zoning category needed to accommodate the project would have negative implications elsewhere.

But they ultimately sided with Town Manager Micah Maxwell and City Attorney David Ottinger, who said the property's current land use and zoning designations and height restrictions as well as the town's comprehensive plan prohibit BB Hotel — or any other developers — from proposing anything other than hotels or single-family homes.

"As you folks can see," Mayor Gary Katica told the roughly 50 residents in attendance, "we feel the passions of both sides. But we cannot sit up here and do nothing. We have to prepare for the future."

The decision disappointed audience members, six of whom stood up to criticize the plan.

Hadn't other hotels been rehabbed into multimillion dollar successes, one woman asked. Couldn't the developers renovate the hotel's interior into homes, or retain part of the original structure for conversion into a small boutique hotel, others asked?

Resident Mary Lou White said officials' mere consideration of zoning changes sent "the message that the town isn't standing behind the renovation of the hotel" anymore.

"I believe firmly that a concept plan gives them a foot in the door that we can't remove later," added resident Bonnie-Sue Brandvik.

Commissioner Stephen Fowler, who cast the lone vote against allowing staffers to look at zoning changes, said BB Hotel purchased the Biltmore as-is in 2010 with the intention of renovating it and the town shouldn't have to spend legal fees drafting new codes for a different project.

"They are proposing to tear down a great old Victorian structure and replace it with something similar (in architecture and colors) to what's already there, and to me that's kind of a slap in the face. Here's a reminder of what we tore down every time you drive" by, he said.

But attorney Ed Armstrong said the owners are "of the genuine belief … that, simply put, the hotel is too far gone to be rehabilitated."

The hotel, known as the "White Queen of the Gulf," housed presidents, celebrities and generations of Pinellas County residents and guests. It closed in 2009.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or

Belleair opens door to other development on Belleview Biltmore site 08/07/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 9:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  2. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'


    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  3. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light


    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  4. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling


    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. PTA treasurer at Pinellas school accused of stealing $5,000


    The treasurer of the Parent-Teacher Association at a Pinellas County elementary school faces a felony fraud charge after she was accused of stealing from the organization to pay her credit card and phone bills.

    Lisa McMenamin, 50, of Tarpon Springs, is facing felony charges of scheming to defraud the Brooker Creek Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, where she served as treasurer. She is accused of stealing $5,000 to pay credit card and phone bills. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]