Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Belleview Biltmore clears all legal hurdles

Things seem to be looking up for the owners of the Belleview Biltmore Resort and Spa. The appeals period for the latest court challenge of development plans has expired. Last month saw another court challenge to development of the Cabana Club site on Sand Key defeated. Both properties are owned by Latitude Management Real Estate Investors, who plan to spend over $100-million on renovations and updating. This is good news after 2 ½ years of non-stop legal battles with various groups trying to prevent the proposed development work.

The historic 113-year old resort, located at 25 Belleview Blvd. in Clearwater, was built by Henry Bradley Plant and is on the National Historic Register. The Biltmore is probably the largest occupied wood-frame structure in the world at 820,000 square feet. Since opening in 1897 the hotel saw a steady stream of prominent guests including numerous presidents, queens, kings and captains of industry from around the world. It is one of very few historic hotels in the state of Florida.

With the removal of all legal obstacles to the development, project architect Richard J. Heisenbottle said the search for funds can begin in earnest for the first time. Finding financing for the complete project as planned could be a challenge. Knowing that the project can really be built should make the financial search a little easier.

The hotel has been shuttered and more than 300 employees laid off for more than a year. At one point the hotel was paying daily code violation fines for roofing problems. The originally filed development plan called for opening the renovated resort in January 2012. The new timetable for work and re-opening is not known.

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