Make us your home page

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, 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

  1. Car bomb kills 13, injures 24 in Baghdad; Islamic State claims responsibility


    BAGHDAD — A car bomb exploded outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad just after midnight today, killing 13 people and wounding 24, hospital and police officials said.

  2. Leaping shark floors angler in Australia


    In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway's protagonist battles for three days to pull in his prized catch. For Terry Selwood, it came a little more suddenly.

    A 9-foot shark lies on the deck of a fishing boat at Evans Head, Australia on Sunday. Fisherman Terry Selwood said he was left with a badly bruised and bleeding right arm where the shark struck him with a fin as it landed on him on the deck. [Lance Fountain via AP]
  3. Rays rally twice to beat Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Starting Erasmo Ramirez on Monday after he closed out Sunday's marathon win turned out, despite the Rays' best intentions and rigid insistence, to be a bad idea as he gave up four runs without getting through three innings.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers and comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  4. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber


    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  5. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant


    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]