The Belleview Biltmore hotel might soon be sold. The hotel, which was built at the turn of the last century, has been closed since 2009.
BELLEAIR – It appears new owners are poised to take over the Belleview Biltmore Hotel.
Details of the sale are nearly finalized and the closing date will be Friday, Jan. 24, said a source, who asked not to be identified.
While the prospective new owners of the hotel have not been identified, the source has indicated it is a Real Estate Investment Trust, which are companies that are interested in developing property, not in preserving historic properties.
Ed Armstrong, the Clearwater Attorney who represents the current owners of the hotel, the Ades brothers of Miami, all but confirmed the sale is pending.
“I cannot say much,” he said. “There is potentially a closing date pending, it depends on how things play out, nothing is set in stone yet.”
When interviewed on Jan. 13, Armstrong said things should be clearer in 10 days, which would be on or around Jan. 24.
“I think the situation will be clarified in the next 10 days or so,” he said. “It will be more real, much more real in 10 days.”
Armstrong, who confirmed he is part of the negotiations, would not confirm the possibility of a REIT becoming the new owner of the property, but said that the current talks do not involve preserving the hotel.
“The intended use of the property would be residential,” he said.
When asked if Miami area architect Richard Heisenbottle was the person involved in the talks, Armstrong was quick and to the point.
“No he is not,” he said.
Back in April 2012 Heisenbottle and two partners appeared before the Belleair Commission and outlined plans to buy the hotel and refurbish it to save it from the wrecking ball. Since then difficulty in raising the estimated $200 million for the project stalled his bid. All along he has said he was confident that the money could be raised given enough time. Now it appears time has run out and he isn’t happy.
“We’ll be hugely disappointed if after taking it this far we’re not able to bring it to closing,” he said. “I’ve put more effort into this project than anyone else by far. Frankly, I’m devastated and feel it is unfortunate for the people of Belleair. The hotel was, and is, the identity of this town.”
Heisenbottle said he knew nothing about this latest development and potential sale and indicates that it might not be over yet.
“If it goes to a developer I’ll obviously be very, very disappointed,” he said. “We were close to a deal and getting the financing for the entire property. We believe we are still hugely close and I continue to be in touch with Daniel (Ades).”
Word of the pending sale did not surprise Mayor Gary Katica.
“I said a long time ago that the Ades brothers are not developers so the fact that they might be selling the hotel to a developer doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “I’m sorry Heisenbottle isn’t in the mix. They say the closing date is the 24th; at this point I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Katica said he has no idea who the potential new buyers are, but he’d been told they are developers.
“I get the feeling that we’re getting down to the end run stage,” he said. “Enough is enough. You’d love to see the hotel restored but you hate to see it just sitting there. It is not fair to the people of the RPD who have to look at it every day.”
There is little the town can do about the pending sale. It has no jurisdiction or power to stop a sales transaction between two private parties. It can, however, have some say in what goes on the property. Town Manager Micah Maxwell says there is a process that must be followed, particularly because the hotel is an historic property.
“The new owners would have to get a certificate of appropriateness first,” he said. “That would then allow them to get a demolition permit, but that can’t happen without their presenting a site plan, and that must be approved by the commission.”
At the commission meeting on Jan. 21, commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposed new zoning designation designed especially for the property. The new RM-10 designation would limit the number of units per acre to 10, but it would allow the height restriction of 32 feet be increased to 80 feet in some instances. Commissioners were told the new designation would allow a developer more freedom to diversify the type of townhouses or condominiums that can be built on the property.
Residential Planned Development residents recently voted in favor of the new zoning designation but wanted to make sure that no more than 160 units would be built on the property and each would be a minimum of 15 hundred square feet.
Before the sale of the hotel can be finalized the town’s lien must be satisfied. There is an $83,000 lien on the property. It is the result of a $250 a day fine because of the deteriorating state of the hotel. At one point the fines totaled $250,000 but they were forgiven when the Ades brothers agreed to sell the Belleview Biltmore Golf Club to the town for $3.5 million.
Revised to change the upcoming commission meeting date from Jan. 24 to Jan. 21.