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Plans unveiled for Biltmore site
Proposed project preliminary, subject to revision, property owners say
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The Belleview Biltmore Hotel in Belleair remains empty but could be demolished to make way for a housing development.
BELLEAIR – A longstanding issue between the owners of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel and the Residential Planned Community Homeowners Association in Belleair has been settled and a glimpse into the future of the Biltmore property has been provided.

At a meeting with the Homeowners Association in early May representatives of the Ades brothers of Miami, the owners of the hotel, agreed to begin paying a monthly fee as their share of the cost of the upkeep of the roads and security inside the gated community which the hotel shares with the Belleair Golf Club and several high rise condominiums.

Jim White, the president of the Homeowners Association, said they were given a check for $40,000 to cover past costs, and they agreed to pay $3,000 a month until the situation changes, at which time that amount will be re-negotiated.

“The trouble with the whole situation up till now is that there was never anything in writing,” said White. “The various previous owners of the hotel paid some money toward the upkeep; these owners did not until now. Now we have a written agreement and that gives us some leverage for future negotiations. We’re happy, the $40,000 isn’t a big amount but the commitment to pay on a monthly basis is the real winner.”

White said the money is necessary because the town does not pay a cent toward the upkeep of the roads within the RPD. Condo owners, in addition to their normal condo fees, also pay an extra fee for the upkeep.

In addition to settling the financial differences the owners’ representatives also unveiled their plans for what will go on the site if and when the hotel is demolished. White said generally the homeowners were pleased with what they saw.

“What they proposed was the architecture for a combination of condos and townhouses and they will resemble what the hotel looks like now,” he said. “The size of the units is a concern to us; they were talking about 900 to 1,400 square feet for the condos and 1,400 square feet for the townhouses. We were hoping they would be something a little larger, a little higher end. They did not give us an indication of what the selling price might be. It was all new information to us. On the surface it looks well, it is very preliminary.”

Representing the owners at that meeting was Clearwater Attorney Ed Armstrong. He confirmed what White described.

“It is a very preliminary vision and it is certainly subject to revision,” he said.

As for the future of the hotel Armstrong said it appears headed for demolition.

“There seems to be no interested buyers interested in keeping it a hotel,” he said. “No site plan has been submitted to the city; we hope to do that later this summer with a formal application. We’re still engaged in dialogue with the community and the town’s professional staff.”

When asked if the owners would sell the property to a buyer intent on developing it into a residential property, Armstrong said no.

“My impression is they intend to develop it themselves,” he said.

Mayor Gary Katica, who was also at the meeting, said he has trouble believing the Ades brothers want to develop the property.

“They (the Ades brothers) are not developers; they are money people, in and out,” he said. “They paid $8 million for the three pieces of the property. They sold the Cabana club and the golf course and now they are in it for less than $4 million. To them it is more valuable without the hotel so they are going through the charade to get the permit to demolish.”

Katica called the land where the Biltmore is located 23 of the finest acres in Florida. He said it is valuable property.

“At half a million an acre that is $11 million. I personally think they do not want to develop it; they want to knock it down and sell it to developers. It would be a sad day to see the hotel being knocked down,” he said.

Whatever is going to happen to the property won’t occur soon. Town Manager Micah Maxwell said the owners’ application to demolish the hotel has expired so officially there is nothing on the books indicating an impending demolition.

“When they come in they are going to have to re-file,” said Maxwell. “The last time it was an incomplete packet which automatically expired after 20 days. There is no application to demolish at the moment.”

As for Armstrong’s comment that there have been discussions with the town staff, Maxwell said the talks have been very preliminary.

“He did call to let me know they were going to meet with the RPD residents and talk to them,” he said. He also gave me an overview of what the planned development is going to look like.”

Maxwell said the next step is to sit down face to face as part of a pre-application process.

“We have shared with them the process and how it is going to occur,” he said. “What is left now is to set some dates for more meetings and that is going to take some back and forth.”

On the sidelines as all this unfolds is Miami Architect Richard Heisenbottle. He and his partners had indicated they were intent on purchasing the property and saving the hotel. Until now they have not been able to reach an agreement with the owners. At one point they scaled back their plans because of financing concerns.

Contacted in South Florida he said he didn’t have much to say about what was happening.

“My partners and I are watching the developments with interest and will continue to watch as things unfold,” he said.

Heisenbottle would not comment further regarding if he were still a potential buyer of the property.

Katica is still not ready to throw in the towel and concede that the days of the historic hotel might be over.

“My first feel is that it would be better for the town if it was restored.”
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