Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

To help would-be owners, Belleair declares Belleview Biltmore hotel property blighted

The Belleview Biltmore in the town of Belleair is the last grand Victorian hotel in Florida. Built in 1897 by railroad tycoon Henry Plant, the resort is on a 22-acre bluff overlooking Clearwater Bay.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2008)

The Belleview Biltmore in the town of Belleair is the last grand Victorian hotel in Florida. Built in 1897 by railroad tycoon Henry Plant, the resort is on a 22-acre bluff overlooking Clearwater Bay.

BELLEAIR — It's official. There is blight in the midst of the million-dollar homes in Belleair.

At a special meeting last week, the Belleair Town Commission voted unanimously to declare the 20.32-acre property that's home to the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel a blighted area. With that vote, Belleair can now seek authority from the Pinellas County Commission to create a Community Redevelopment Area, or CRA, to benefit restoration of the deteriorating hotel.

Any additional property taxes collected when property values rise within a CRA are used to finance improvements inside the CRA only. Local governments must agree to give up the additional revenue they could collect from that rise in property value.

An area must be declared blighted before a CRA can be created. Now that the town has taken that step, officials hope the County Commission will consent at its June meeting. If the county gives the go-ahead, the Belleair Town Commission will then take another vote to create the CRA.

"This is one more step in a very long journey that's going to be involved with the town, residents and the commission," said Belleair Commissioner Stephen Fowler. "It's a small step in a very long journey that hopefully will be successful when we get there."

Commissioner Michael Wilkinson agreed.

"We are charged with doing all we can to save and restore the Biltmore," Wilkinson said. "This is a first step in a very long process."

Last week's vote was the second in as many months that the Town Commission has taken to encourage restoration of the 115-year-old hotel.

In April the commission agreed to extend a 2008 development order given to a previous hotel owner. That approval was considered pivotal by proposed new owners of the hotel; without it, they would have been forced to create a new development order and get it approved.

Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC has until October to close on the purchase of the hotel property. The group intends to spend about $225 million to restore the hotel to its former grandeur. They hope to turn it into a corporate travel destination.

Charles Kropke of Coral Gables, a member of Belleview Biltmore Partners, said last week that a major international bank, a major hotelier and a powerful economic group have all agreed to help restore the landmark hotel, which has 460 rooms. Kropke would not name the bank or the hotelier. But he said the final piece of the plan is the creation of the CRA.

"We are asking only for permission for a way that this project pays for itself," Kropke told the commission. "This particular formula is set up as a win-win situation. This is the last grand Victorian (hotel) in the state of Florida. We are producing a methodology to do it."

The hotel was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Some residents are still skeptical about a public-private partnership. Some even think the hotel should be razed and single-family homes or townhomes should be built on the property instead.

"I am questioning why has the idea of it becoming a residential community been completely discounted?" asked Randy Ware, who was one of about 40 people attending last week's meeting. "…I don't understand why we are discounting turning the property into homes. … I just redeveloped a property and I don't ask anybody for a penny."

Saul Schechter, president of Seaside at Belleair II Condominium Association, said he is concerned about the property being declared blighted. Seaside II is near the hotel.

"Taxpayers of Belleair will be subsidizing this for years to come," Schechter said. "What happens if this project goes forward and it fails? What obligations does the town have?"

Town Manager Micah Maxwell said he is still pulling together economic data and that the town will do everything it can to protect itself. He said more information will available before the commission takes the final vote on creating a CRA. That pleased some commissioners who still want more financial data about the project.

"I don't want the town to take on additional liability," said Commissioner Kevin Piccarreto. "That's not a good idea right now. I want to protect ourselves from being stuck with a project that doesn't move forward."

Resident Laurie Adams was a member of the ad hoc committee that was formed to help save the hotel. She said last week that the town's comprehensive plan specifically lists as a goal that the commission work to help to ensure that the "hotel owners are successful." Adams encouraged the commission to create the CRA.

To help would-be owners, Belleair declares Belleview Biltmore hotel property blighted 05/30/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 4:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Ore., light rail train.

    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]
  2. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  3. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  4. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  5. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence

    National

    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …