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Apartments planned for old hotel

Twenty-four units, with 6-foot windows and 12-foot ceilings, replace the idea of hotel rooms.

Rental apartments instead of hotel rooms are the new future for the historic Detroit Hotel downtown.

Orlando developer Cameron Kuhn, who bought the hotel and attached clubs and restaurants in April, changed course because of the demands a new hotel would make on the oldest part of the Detroit.

Kuhn now plans 24 rental apartments on the second, third and fourth floors of the hotel. Three will be one-bedroom homes and 21 will have two bedrooms. The apartments will have 6-foot-high windows, 12-foot ceilings and hardwood floors.

"They will be rectangular, L-shaped and beautiful," Kuhn said last week. Demolition on the interior of the buildings begins Monday, he said.

Rents will range from $1,000 per month to $1,200.

Built in 1888, a revitalized Detroit needed 90 rooms to attract a name hotel chain, Kuhn said. He was negotiating with Double Tree Inns, and to fit the old hotel to their boutique style, he would have had to tear down the middle section and rebuild it, adding two stories. The middle section is the oldest part of the Detroit.

"We are leaving the existing structure," Kuhn said last week. "We are doing that for historical reasons. Historical issues have been the delay on the project."

In May, Kuhn had announced that the four-story hotel, which has been closed since 1993, would be renovated and reopened with amenities for business travelers and a rate of $99 per room.

The Detroit is one of the oldest buildings in the city, but it is not designated as a local landmark, according to Bob Jeffrey, manager of urban design and historic preservation for the city of St. Petersburg.

Jeffrey said he told Kuhn that if plans called for demolishing the middle section, someone probably would seek the landmark designation for the Detroit.

"It's difficult to restore an old building like that and change its use," Jeffrey said.

The Detroit has structural problems dating from 1913, when an elevator was added.

"They just cut a huge hole down the middle of the building," Jeffrey said. "The elevator has pulled down some of the structure" over the years.

Kuhn said interior walls of the Detroit will be torn out and new plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning installed, as well as a new roof.

He hopes to have renters in the apartments by March or April. Final plans for the renovation have not yet been approved by the city, Jeffrey said.

Before Kuhn bought the Detroit, there were plans to turn it into investment condominiums, but little progress was made. Apparently financial backing was lacking, Jeffrey said.

Jeffrey said rental apartments could be the best use of the Detroit.

"It's a wonderful opportunity in downtown, affordable rental apartments and saving an old building that is unique."

Jeffrey also said Kuhn had a proven record for renovating old, problem buildings in Orlando and putting them back in use.

The Detroit is one of several projects in town where redevelopment has changed course. The old Beach Park apartments on North Shore Drive last year were set to be turned into 10 townhomes. After a delay, seven custom townhomes are under construction with price tags in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.