A decade long fight over the historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel ended now. Most of the hotel will be torn down to make way for a new development.
The hotel, constructed of wood, was built in 1896 and operated until 2009, when it closed for renovations. Those renovations never happened.
There was a lot of talk about tradition, history, and legacy at the Belleair Town Commission meeting. In the end commissioners voted for progress, tax revenue and the future.
The Belleview Biltmore Hotel will be mostly torn down to make way for condos, town homes and tennis courts. David Hutcheson, the Historic Preservation Board Chairman, said, "I love the hotel. I think it is a phenomenal place. But there is a day and there's a time for everything. Now that they will save a portion of it. That is fantastic."
The new development will save the oldest part of the hotel and restore it. The lobby, dining hall, and rooms above the front entrance will be moved and used as the foundation for a boutique, 33-room hotel.
The preservationists fought to wait for a developer to restore the entire hotel. Rae Clair Johnson led the effort, saying the hotel owners didn't maintain the building since it closed in 2009.
"Which is demolition by neglect under historic preservation law,” she said. “Now they are turning around and rewarding them for damaging the building. What kind of logic is that?"
Residents spoke their minds at the commission meeting. The room was split.
One resident said, "I have heard a few people say if that eyesore stays there, they will move." Another said, "Don't destroy the hotel as you cannot get it back."
The project passed unanimously. It will mean $500,000 in additional revenue for the Town of Belleair when it's completed. That represents 15 percent of the entire town's tax revenue.
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