Editor: OK Pinellas, if we are really serious about saving the Biltmore, let’s put our money where our mouth is and compete with the big corporation to save this landmark. Tear this jewel down and you have torn out the heart of Pinellas County.
The developers have just as much right to do with the property as any private landowner does with his land subject to regulatory approval. So fighting the developer in the end will probably not work. The sellers have the right to sell for as much as they can get; that is the American free enterprise system.
The only way to compete to save this landmark is with money. St. Petersburg taxpayers a few years back voted to use tax funds to purchase Sunken Gardens, which in essence was a per-resident contribution to purchase this landmark. They voted loud and clear in 2003 to save Albert Whitted Airport from going condo, so it proves there is an interest from the community in preservation, even at a cost.
It will take a community and one unified front to save this landmark. If we could get everyone in Pinellas County to chip in $100, that would be $100 million, which is still less than the developers are offering, not even considering the running costs of the property. So it will probably take more as well as a comprehensive plan for management.
There will be those who will not care, but those who would chip in thousands, tens of thousands, or millions to make up for those who do not.
It is time that we start taking some interest in preserving some of our historical landmarks and competing with some of the large corporations that threaten our quality of life and history here by bulldozing every square inch of this county and building upwards.
Private, public, public-private partnerships, and compromise can all work saving historical landmarks. Many great properties have been saved and renovated over the years: Sunken Gardens, the Vinoy, Don CeSar, Camp Soule (Boy Scouts) in Clearwater, Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville (old Central Railway station), and various Union Pacific Railway stations around the country, to name a few.
In the case of the Biltmore, open green space, golf courses, and a magnificent hotel is worth the maximum effort possible to keep this space for future generations. Even if it costs to continually operate it, the cost will be worth it in the future.