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Downtown

New owner to restore old hotel's faded glory

Work to clean and patch the Floridan Hotel begins this month, the first step in a restoration of it and downtown.

By STEVE HUETTEL
Published August 12, 2005


Maybe the sixth time will be the charm for the historic Floridan Hotel.

Crews will start cleaning and patching up the downtown building this month, the first step in a plan by Clearwater developer Antonios Markopoulos to restore the Floridan, boarded up since 1989, as an upscale boutique hotel.

Markopoulos bought the deteriorating hotel for $6-million in April and will try to pull off an ambitious project that frustrated five development groups over the past 18 years.

Unlike the others, Markopoulos won't need to seek financing, said Lisa Shasteen, his attorney. He sold 3 acres of beachfront in Clearwater Beach for $40-million last fall to Dr. Kiran C. Patel, who plans to develop a 350-room resort on the site.

Restoring the 19-story Floridan is critical to revitalizing the city's central business district, said a consultant hired to map out a development plan for the city and the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Abandoned buildings such as the Floridan, Maas Brothers and Kress buildings are "eyesores that remind downtown workers and Tampa leaders daily that the once-grand retail boulevard . . . has become a largely deserted and abandoned strip," wrote Hunter Interests Inc.

Opened in 1927, the Floridan was the tallest building in the state at the time and remained among the area's best accommodations through World War II.

By the late 1950s, travelers headed to newer suburban hotels. The Floridan became the place to find a clean, cheap room and eventually turned to renting by the month as the 1960s came to a close.

The hotel changed hands three times from 1987 to 1997. The owners and two potential investors floated renovation plans. The last owner, Capital LCC, gave up after president Alec Land died last year and the remaining partners lost interest, lawyer Jim Cusack said.

Markopoulos ran into fierce opposition with his plan to develop his Clearwater Beach property before selling to Patel.

But he wanted to pursue a new project, Shasteen said. She was driving Markopoulos around downtown Tampa last spring when he spotted the Floridan. He got a tour and within a month beat out six other bidders, Cusack said.

Built with 426 rooms, the renovated Floridan will have about half that number, along with a high-end restaurant and a new parking deck, Shasteen said.

Renovations will take between 18 and 24 months, she said. She didn't have an estimate of the cost but said the downtown partnership consultant put a price tag of $16-million to $20-million to reconstruct the hotel for residential units.

Work on the building at Florida Avenue and Cass Street should begin in the next few weeks and will include spray-washing the outside, replacing loose grout, sealing cracks and cleaning up bird droppings inside.

The building has some water damage from a leaky roof but is in "remarkably good shape" after being empty so long, Shasteen said.

A version of this story appeared in other editions of the Times. Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or 226-3384.

[Last modified August 11, 2005, 09:00:07]


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