Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa mayor gets first look at transformation of old courthouse into new hotel

TAMPA — Stepping past a chain-link fence around the construction site, Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, "I feel like an expectant father."

No surprise there. If there's anything that's his baby, it's the transformation under way at Tampa's majestic but long-empty old federal courthouse.

Wednesday, Buckhorn walked through the 109-year-old building for the first time since work started about 10 months ago.

Many of the features that put the courthouse on the National Register of Historic Places remain — the soaring ceilings, tall windows, oak woodwork, terrazzo floors and green-on-white marble wainscoting.

What's coming is a 130-room boutique hotel — and one of the most ambitious historic renovations Tampa has ever seen.

What used to be offices and judges' chambers are being converted into hotel guest rooms with 10- to 12-foot ceilings. Even old prisoner holding cells will be reconfigured and expanded into guest rooms.

The front lawn will have tables for outdoor dining, a granite wall that once enclosed a prisoner arrival sally port will provide privacy for a swimming pool, and an imposing ceremonial courtroom will someday host other important events.

"This is a great courtroom," Buckhorn said.

"It's going to be a great ballroom," said his guide, Gary Prosterman, the owner and principal of Development Services Group of Memphis, the lead company for the redevelopment team.

Pointing across the street to the massive stained glass window at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, he said, "Many wedding receptions will just come right from the church, right upstairs."

The project budget is about $25 million, 135 to 140 workers are on site on any given day and surprises have been minimal.

The new hotel, Le Meridien, is expected to open on N Florida Avenue around June 1. Le Meridien is expected to have a staff of about 100 and nightly room rates ranging up to about $290 in-season and $160 out of season. One wall will feature works by local artists.

Completed in 1905, the courthouse boasts a beaux-arts design and neoclassical elements, including three-story Corinthian columns flanking the front door. It was closed 16 years ago and was deeded to the city five years after that. Since then, it has sat vacant, though the city had to spend almost $100,000 a year on air conditioning just to keep down the mold.

In 2011, after several unsuccessful tries to find a new tenant, the city sought bids from developers interested in converting the courthouse into a high-end hotel. Five responded. Unlike some other bidders, DSG did not seek any city funding for its project. It also had the track record Buckhorn wanted: It had done 25 similar projects in 16 cities.

At the end of Wednesday's tour, Buckhorn said the project is shaping up to be "everything that I hoped it would be."

"It's one of these buildings that you had to do," said Mark House, managing director for the Florida division of the Beck Group, construction manager for the project. "I mean, we had to do that. If we missed this opportunity …"

Buckhorn finished the thought: "Shame on us."

Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, Danielson@tampabay.com or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Tampa mayor gets first look at transformation of old courthouse into new hotel 01/08/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 9, 2014 12:16am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest

    Health

    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]
  2. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  3. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico

    News

    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  4. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty

    Politics

    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.

  5. Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire 'private briefings' on 2016 campaign, report says

    Nation

    Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, the Washington Post reports.

    Paul Manafort, then Donald Trump's campaign chairman, talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. [Associated Press]