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Detroit Hotel may go condo, not rental

The developer had been planning apartments, but inquiries from potential buyers could alter his vision.

By SHARON L. BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Detroit Hotel could become a building of condominiums priced in the $150,000 to $195,000 range instead of rental apartments.

Developer Cameron Kuhn of Orlando said Monday he is considering the change because he has gotten so many requests to buy the 24 units.

"I'm just trying to be responsive to what the market approaches me about," Kuhn said. "I think it's very interesting that people want to buy a piece of downtown."

At the prices he is talking about, the Detroit condominiums would be in the lower range for downtown. Many of the townhome projects under construction are priced in the $250,000 to $350,000 range, and the luxury condominiums that have recently been completed or are being built range much higher, some into the millions.

"You can't really find anything in downtown for $150,000," he said.

Kuhn bought the hotel for $3.7-million last year. Initially he planned to spend about $3-million restoring the Detroit as a hotel. But to get a nationally known chain to operate it, he would have had to tear down and rebuild the oldest part of the hotel, the middle section, to add enough rooms to interest a chain. He decided not to do that.

Kuhn changed his renovation plan to apartments that were to rent for $1,000 to $1,200 per month. The Detroit will include 3 one-bedroom, one-bath units, and 21 two-bedroom, two-bath units. Space averages about 1,200 square feet.

"Every unit is different," Kuhn said. "Some have fireplaces, some have bay view, some have balconies." All the units have 9-foot ceilings, washers and dryers, hardwood floors and brick walls.

After the apartments were announced, Kuhn said he got 42 calls about them. From those he sent out 26 applications. Of that number, about half asked if they could buy instead of rent.

"I'm strongly considering switching," Kuhn said. Buyers would be getting a piece of St. Petersburg history. The Detroit was built in 1888 by city founders John Williams and Peter Demens. Wings were added later. The hotel closed in 1993.

The property that Kuhn bought includes several restaurants, bars, a liquor store and Jannus Landing, the concert venue in addition to the hotel.

To address the concert noise issue, sound-deadening materials, such as laminated glass for all units, are being used in the renovation of the Detroit and Jannus Landing, Kuhn said.

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