Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Developer seeks demolition permit for Belleview Biltmore hotel

BELLEAIR — The St. Petersburg developer pursuing the purchase of the Belleview Biltmore filed applications Friday asking the town to approve his requests that the hotel be demolished, the site rezoned and his vision for condos, townhomes and a boutique hotel approved.

Attorney Ed Armstrong filed six computer boxes, each containing a copy of the more-than-300-page packet plus exhibits, on behalf of JMC Communities founder Mike Cheezem, who is in the process of buying the hotel from Miami investors Daniel and Raphael Ades for $6.6 million.

The documents include a preliminary development plan, application for a demolition permit based on "economic hardship" and a request that town commissioners change the property's hotel and single family-only zoning to a mixed-use designation recently added to town code.

Cheezem plans to build a 33-room inn with meeting space and a small pub that mimics the original hotel, plus 132 upscale residential units spread across four mid-rise condo buildings containing up to 26 units each and 28 townhomes. There would be 359 parking spaces.

The development firm expects to complete the $15 million project's first phase within two years after approval, and all eight within five years.

"We tried to be really sensitive to the direction of the commission and the input of the community," Armstrong said.

He said the six-month contingency period Cheezem originally said he would use to explore whether to close on the deal is no longer applicable. "JMC will pursue this case to its conclusion, regardless of how long it takes," Armstrong said.

If all goes smoothly, officials expect the item to come before the Town Commission in late September or early October after review by staff and Planning and Zoning board, and what is expected to be a controversial quasi-judicial hearing process before the historic preservation board.

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

According to Cheezem's application, rampant disrepair to the point that "some structures should be condemned" renders restoration — estimated at nearly $200 million for a 260-room, four-star hotel and spa with underground parking, pool and other recreational amenities — "financially unfeasible." Cheezem's redevelopment plan would generate an additional $416,000 in tax revenue than last year and raise surrounding property values, the document said.

Contact Keyonna Summers at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. Follow @KeyonnaSummers.

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