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Council sets vote on fate of Soreno Hotel

The City Council won't decide until next month whether to go against the wishes of downtown's master developer and declare the vacant Soreno Hotel a local landmark. Last month, the city's Historic Preservation Commission recommended that the hotel, built in 1924 and vacated in 1984 because of fire code violations, be designated a city landmark.

Some members of the council said Thursday that they are sympathetic to the idea of saving the Soreno, but that they want to proceed carefully.

Bay Plaza Cos., the city's master developer, has said it isn't sure whether it would demolish the Soreno but contends that designating it a landmark would breach the development agreement between the city and the company.

Bay Plaza controls the hotel through a 110-year lease.

Landmark status wouldn't make it impossible to tear the hotel down, but it would complicate the process.

The council took a procedural vote on the issue Thursday, setting up a public hearing and official vote July 18.

Council member Ernest Fillyau said he once worked at the Soreno and called it "a little bit of the heart" of the city.

"I'm tired of going to Europe to see old buildings," he said. "America needs to take a look at saving our old buildings."

Council member Edward Cole Jr. said he, too, has warm memories of the hotel.

"I have many fond memories of the Soreno, just as I have of the Vinoy. Yet I do not want to be a stumbling block to downtown development," he said.