|Location||25 Belleview Boulevard
|Area||4 acres (1.6 ha)|
|Architect||Kennard, Francis J.
Miller, Michael J.
|Architectural style||Queen Anne
|NRHP Reference #||79000687|
|Added to NRHP||December 26, 1979|
The Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa is a historic resort hotel located at 25 Belleview Boulevard in the town of Belleair, Florida, USA. The 820,000 square feet (76,000 m2) hotel structure is the last remaining grand historic hotel of its period in Florida that exists as a resort, and the only remaining Henry Plant hotel still in operation. The building is noted for its architectural features, with its unique green sloped roof and white wood sided exterior, and extensive hand crafted woodwork and Tiffany glass inside. It is said to be the largest occupied wood frame structure in the world, and is constructed of native Florida pine wood. The hotel is closed and demolition has been proposed by its owner. A renovation plan has been has also been proposed.
The Belleview Biltmore is situated along the eastern shores of Old Clearwater Bay, with views of the bay and the barrier islands which border the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel was built in 1897 by railroad tycoon Henry B. Plant and was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on December 26, 1979. The designation does not protect it from demolition and its owner planned to demolish the hotel in 2012 and to replace it with condos. Plans to restore the hotel have also been proposed.
The hotel property consists of over 160 acres (65 ha), including swimming pools, a beach club, restaurant, and a golf course. The hotel itself is located on 20.203 acres (8.176 ha) and has ballroom facilities and is a popular location for weddings and other gatherings.
The Belleview Biltmore has hosted many famous people, dignitaries and world leaders through the years, including U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Duke of Windsor, and celebrities such as Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. The hotel is thought by some to be the site of ghost sightings and other paranormal events. The Hotel was featured in a segment on the Weird Travels series on the Travel Channel television network in the U.S., which was filmed in March 2004 by Authentic Entertainment. Ghost Stories of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel have been documented at http://ClearwaterGhostHunter.com which contains one of the largest online galleries of interior and exterior photos of the hotel.*
The Belleview Hotel, as it was initially known, was constructed by Henry B. Plant as a resort destination to boost tourist travel on his railroad line serving the west coast of Florida, which he had acquired in 1893 as part of his expanding Plant System network of railroads. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which absorbed the Plant System lines in 1902, continued to operate the Pinellas Special (trains nos. 95 and 96) train from New York City to a siding on the hotel's property in the 1920s.
World War II and the post-war years
During World War II, the hotel served as lodging for servicemen who were stationed at Macdill Air Force Base in Tampa. In the 1970s and 1980s, the aging hotel began to decline as changing travel patterns and intensified competition from newer beach-front motels caused significant losses.
In preparation for his 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, musician Bob Dylan spent much of April rehearsing at the Belleview Biltmore with his troupe. Band members included Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, violinist Scarlet Rivera, and folk queen Joan Baez. Dylan would eventually play two shows on the 22nd in the hotel's Starlight Ballroom.
A Japanese company, Mido Development, purchased the hotel in 1991 and made many repairs and additions, including a new spa area and entrance, later selling the property to hotelier Salim Jetha in 1997. The addition was made to create a more modern appearance upon entry, At the same time, the fifth floor of the building was closed off and left in a varying state[clarification needed] of disrepair. In 2001, attempts were made to restore common areas and guest rooms continuing on to 2004. During the summer of 2004, the hotel suffered a glancing blows from hurricanes Jeane and Francis, causing severe damage to an already deteriorated roof, setting the plans to fully restore the building into limbo. Tom Cook Construction Inc. was hired to place protective coverings over the building while plans were made to replace this existential[clarification needed] part of the building.
In late 2004, DeBartolo Development Group offered to purchase the property from Belleview Biltmore Resort, Ltd., then owned by Urdang and Associates, to demolish the hotel structure and replace it with retail shopping and condominiums. The proposal was withdrawn in January 2005, however, after public outrage over the plan, the developers citing lack of public support. However, in April 2005, published reports said that the DeBartolo group was once again planning to purchase the hotel, and had it under contract with Urdang and Associates, raising concerns among historic preservationists when it was disclosed that DeBartolo had filed a demolition permit application with the Town of Belleair (where the hotel is located) to demolish the Belleview Biltmore.
Preservationists argued that measures to protect historic structures should be adopted by Pinellas County or the Town of Belleair, citing hotels elsewhere of similar age which have been successfully restored while offering updated services and amenities, such as the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, and the Williamsburg Inn in Williamsburg, Virginia.
On March 9, 2007, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Legg Mason had entered into a purchase contract for the hotel, with the intent of preserving it. "Executives with Legg Mason Real Estate Investors would not disclose the proposed purchase price or the closing date, but said in a written statement they had a contract to buy the resort and intend to preserve the 110-year-old hotel," the Times reported. Legg Mason engaged the services of historic preservation architect Richard J. Heisenbottle, FAIA to prepare restoration and re-development plans for the project. In May 2008, the Town of Belleair approved Heisenbottle's plans to restore and expand the hotel, which included a new spa and underground garages, following purchase of the property by Legg Mason Real Estate Investors (now Latitude Management Real Estate Investors) for $30.3 million.
On January 29, 2009, it was announced that the resort would close at the end of May for the three-year, $100 million renovation project, reopening in 2012, the hotel's managing director said. Following the hotel's mid-2009 closing, however, an attorney for owner Latitude Management said that the renovation work has been stalled due to litigation by nearby residents, who object to some aspects of the re-development plans. Meanwhile, the Belleair code board voted on November 2, 2009, to begin fining the owners of the now-closed hotel $250 per day for failure to repair the hotel's "dilapidated and deteriorated" roof.
Until a recent change of ownership, a demolition of the hotel and the Victorian cottages was planned.
In 2010, it became very apparent that the Legg-Mason plan would not come to pass, due to the economy. Legg-Mason backed out of its plans to restore the Hotel and re-open it. The hotel went back on the market. In 2011, a group of investors, the Ades brothers, from Miami, had begun to purchase the hotel.
In December 2011, the new owners of the hotel had indicated that they planned to demolish the hotel to replace it with condominiums. Indications were given to the town government that a demolition permit to demolish the hotel would be applied for in January 2012. The government according to reports expressed unwillingness to attempt circumvent or halt the demolition and would be likely to approve the plan to demolish the historic hotel.
On January 9, 2012, the owner of the property began the process to demolish the hotel and receive a permit to do so. The owner also plans to demolish the historical Victorian cottages on the property as well. The owner wants to demolish the historic hotel so that as many as 180 townhomes can be built on the site. However, it is important to realize that given the current zoning of the site (H- Hotel) the only uses permitted are hotels (with associated accessory uses) and any use permitted in the RE-Residential Estate district. The only primary uses permitted in the RE-Residential Estate district are single-family dwellings at two dwelling units per acre (Section 74-82 of the Town of Belleair's Land Development Code (LDC)). The size of the site (per the Pinellas County GIS online mapping service; Parcels 21/29/15/06480/000/0301 and 21/29/15/06480/000/0302 referenced) is 23.659 acres which would yield 47 dwelling units. In order to accommodate the suggested desired density (and use - multi-family dwellings) of up to 180 multi-family dwelling units a zoning amendment to RM-15-Multi-family Residential would be necessary. Zoning amendments are prescribed through Section 66-313 of the Town's LDC. The procedure for rezoning shall incorporate the review of major developments outlined in Article III of Chapter 66, supplemented by the legislative hearing requirements of Section 66-318 and the Town Charter, except that the application shall first be heard by the Planning and Zoning Board (PZB).
On March 3, 2012, Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC signed a sales option agreement with the current owner, Raphael and Daniel Ades, and the group is trying to raise capital to buy the hotel and restore it. It has been stated that the hotel will be restored.
On January 30, 2013 it was reported that Tampa Developer Brian Taub bought the Cabana Restaurant and Grille for $2.1 million. It is no longer part of the Bellview Biltmore Hotel. Taub says the Cabana Restaurant and Grille will be demolished to make way for 23 condos he plans to build on the site. His new building will be six stories over parking. He said the new structure will not look anything like the Cabana Restaurant and Grille or the neighboring Cabana Club Condominiums. He plans, pending city approval, to begin construction sometime this summer.
On August 8, 2013 a newspaper article stated that the owners, BB Hotel LLC, have applied for a plan to demolish the hotel and replace it with 32 townhomes and 136 condominiums in an architectural style reflecting the original hotel.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Train makeup
- Timetable for Pinellas Special
- Ad for trains
- William Kratville, Steam, Steel & Limiteds. Omaha: Barnhart Press, 1962.
- Les Kokay: Songs of the Underground. Rolling Thunder Revue. Private publication 2000, page 77.
- Rita Farlow, St. Petersburg Times, March 9, 2007.
- Helfand, Lorri (November 4, 2009). "Belleair fines Biltmore, says roof still dilapidated". St. Petersburg Times. pp. 1, 5.
- Helfand, Lorri (January 29, 2009). "Resort will lay off 300". St. Petersburg Times. pp. NPN1 and 5.
- "End of an Era: Belleview Biltmore's Fate Becoming Apparent". Belleiar Bee. December 28, 2011. p. 1.
- "Historic Belleview Biltmore's Owner's seek to Demolish It". Tampa Bay Times. January 9, 2012. p. 1.
- "Partnership plans restoration of Bellevue Biltmore". Tampa Bay Times. March 3, 2012. p. 1.
- "Historic Florida Hotel Sits on Death Row, Group Seeks $116.5 Million to Rescue Shuttered Belleview Biltmore, Once Hot Spot for Rich, Famous and the 'Iron Lady'", The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2012
- "Cabana restaurant sold for $2.1 million", Belleair Bee, June 30, 2013
- "Owners plan to demolish Belleview Biltmore", Tampa Bay Business Journal, August 3, 2013
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Belleview-Biltmore Hotel.|
- Haunted Belleview Biltmore Hotel
- Belleview Biltmore Official Site
- Save The BiltmorePreservation Website
- Pinellas County listings at National Register of Historic Places
- Florida's Office of Cultural and Historical Programs
- R.J. Heisenbottle Architects Restoration Plan