Developer scales back project
By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published May 17, 2007
DUNEDIN - A St. Petersburg attorney's plans for restoring the historic Fenway hotel will come before the City Commission tonight 100 rooms slimmer and without a parking garage.
Developer George Rahdert, with the support of city staff, is seeking to convert the 1924 building into a 150-room historic condominium and hotel complex at 453 Edgewater Drive. Rahdert is also an attorney for the St. Petersburg Times.
The proposed development agreement comes 11 months after the commission, listening to neighbors' objections, rejected Rahdert's initial plans to build a 250-unit condo-hotel and a 300-space parking garage. The new plan aims to address the objections of the facility's neighbors, who were concerned with the project's effect on traffic and fear the commercialization of Dunedin's village feel.
"When you have care and custody of a historic structure, you've got to find ways to make it a community asset and invite the community in, " said Rahdert, who said he met with Dunedin residents about 10 times and has offered free membership to the hotel's exercise and spa amenities to immediate neighbors.
But at least one neighbor said she still has concerns about the plan and will attend Thursday's meeting. Across-the-street neighbor Maryellen Tilly, 47, who teaches at St. Petersburg College, said she doesn't like Rahdert's plans to build three additions to the historic structure.
"If (Rahdert is) going to do a historic preservation, he needs to preserve the building as it was historically, " Tilly said. "No additional outer buildings."
Under Rahdert's plans, the additions will make room for hotel space. The main building, which faces the Intracoastal Waterway, may contain a restaurant, a lobby bar and shops.
A building at the back of the site, now leased to a private school, the Washburn Academy, may house a ballroom and meeting rooms, he said.
The site's existing pool will be replaced, and Rahdert said he hasn't figured out where he will put the spa.
The proposed development agreement before the City Commission is the result of six drafts and extensive back and forth between Rahdert, the community and the city.
The site is now zoned residential, single-family. If an agreement is reached between the developer and the city, land use and zoning changes are necessary.
According to the proposed agreement, a 6-foot decorative wall will enclose the site, which is proposed to have a 151-seat restaurant, a ballroom, meeting and convention facilities, a pool with sun deck, tiki bar and grill, a spa and shops.
The wall and landscaping will work to buffer activity at the Fenway from the neighborhood.
Also according to the draft:
-The public will be able to use the pool, spa and other amenities for a fee or on a membership basis.
-The public restaurant will close at 11 p.m. and no new diners will be served after 10 p.m. All outside recreation areas will also close at 11 p.m.
-The dock west of the site can be restored using the existing pilings.
-Lighting will be shielded. Six boat slips will be available for hotel or restaurant visitors but can't be used in the long term.
-Existing curb cuts will be sealed. A single driveway will exist at the westernmost part of Lyndhurst and Locklie streets for hotel use, limiting the amount of hotel traffic flowing into the residential neighborhoods.
-Emergency vehicles will have additional access.
Rahdert bought the 6.4 acres for $8-million in February 2006. The building, which last was home to Schiller International University, was once the Fenway on the Bay hotel.
Rahdert intends to bring back the Fenway name.
The building is already being painted what he calls "Vivien Grant Yellow, " after an elderly Dunedin resident who helped Rahdert identify what is believed to be the hotel's original color.
On the agenda
What: City Commission meeting
When: 6:30 tonight
Where: Dunedin City Hall, 542 Main St.
Watch: Also live on Ch. 15