TAMPA — Inside, the hall of the historic Floridan Palace hotel glittered with chandeliers and cocktail glasses Tuesday night as the politically powerful watched election returns that had them smiling.
Outside, one of the party-goers experienced a brush with death as concrete pieces adorning a corner of the beaux-arts hotel fell three stories and crashed onto a sidewalk, injuring her leg and sending her to the hospital.
In that instant, the 91-year-old building that the owners had taken years to restore became what the city has labeled an imminent safety hazard.
The rubble still lay on the sidewalk and barriers closed off the road out front Wednesday morning when Tampa city officials ordered the owners to hire an engineer to inspect the entire structure and devise a plan to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Meantime, the owner must install netting around the building to catch anything else that might fall.
"It’s fairly obvious if the piece fell on her it could have resulted in her death," said city code enforcement manager Sal Ruggiero.
Pamela Papasov, 32, was on the sidewalk at the northeast corner of N Florida Avenue and E Cass Street at about 9:19 p.m. when the concrete piece hit, according to a Tampa police report. Papasov was treated for minor injuries, the report said.
But the city was taking the incident seriously.
A written notice of violation calls the conditions "so unsafe as to imminently endanger life, limb, health or property." The notice gives the hotel owners until Friday to address what it calls "emergency conditions" and until Sept. 19 to until Sept. 19 to remedy the code violations.
One question for inspectors will be whether adhesive mortar used to attach decorative features during hotel renovation several years ago "is drying up and letting go," Ruggiero said.
Ruggiero said some of the decorative architectural features outside of the building are made of plastic foam and painted to match those made of concrete or stone.
Angelo Markopoulos, whose family owns the Floridan, said in the hotel lobby Wednesday morning that the woman injured was attending a party at the hotel. The Floridan was hosting the election night watch gathering for Ashley Moody, who learned there that she had won the Republican primary in the race for Florida attorney general.
Papasov could not be reached Wednesday.
Hotel guests were prevented from using the hotel’s Florida Avenue entrance door by caution tape surrounding the rubble. Markopoulos said the hotel was taking direction from the city on how to proceed.
Ruggiero said the city served the owner with a notice Wednesday afternoon outlining what was expected. "We showed him exactly what we want and he’s agreeable," he said.
When it opened in 1927, the Floridan was Florida’s tallest building and remained so until 1966, according to the hotel website. The hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
The Floridan closed in 1989 after the owners failed to bring it up to fire code. In 2005, Antonios Markopoulos bought the derelict building for $6 million and it reopened in 2012 after a multimillion-dollar renovation.
Code enforcement inspectors concluded the damage Tuesday was not structural. Tampa police closed a block of Cass Street from Florida Avenue east, between the Floridan and the Sam Gibbons U.S. Courthouse. The one-way road was expected to reopen today or Friday.
Staff writer Dennis Joyce contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.