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Old hotel to reopen as, er, ah, new hotel

The Pennsylvania Hotel, built in 1925, is undergoing a $2-million renovation and will re-open next summer as a specialty inn.

By SHARON BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 20, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- It was cold and dark in the Pennsylvania Hotel Tuesday but not because of the dropped ceilings and dark paneling on the walls. All of that is gone.

Tuesday's rainy weather prevented the sun from streaming through recently uncovered windows and glancing off no-longer-hidden pink/gray marble on the interior walls.

The Pennsylvania Hotel, built in 1925 and the city's last seasonal hotel, is undergoing a $2-million renovation. Plans are for it to re-open in the summer as a boutique hotel, a smaller hotel with a specialty.

"We are using the guidelines set by the National Trust for Historic Preservation so it will qualify as a historic hotel," said David Moore, who bought the hotel at 300 Fourth St. N in June from the Bond family, which had owned it since the 1930s. He would not disclose the sales price.

"We are in a good spot at a good time," Moore said of the hotel's downtown location. Nearby buildings in the Mirror Lake area, such as the Lyceum, have been restored. Across Third Avenue, developer Grady Pridgen plans to turn the First Congregational United Church of Christ into a restaurant and has rehabilitated its parish hall next door into a townhouse for him and his family, offices and an art studio.

Allied Hospitality of Chicago, which will manage the Pennsylvania Hotel, has put up some of the restoration money and will be part owner of the Pennsylvania with Moore, he said.

The restoration of the hotel is being done by Complete Services of Safety Harbor, which worked on recent renovations to the Don CeSar Beach Resort & Spa in St. Pete Beach, Moore said.

The Pennsylvania is the first renovation project for Moore, who has worked in banking and real estate and recently moved here from Atlanta. His wife, Victoria Palmer, grew up in St. Petersburg and all of her family still is here, according to Moore.

"Historic restoration is a lot more rewarding than new construction," Moore said.

He is preserving as much of the Art Deco detailing in the original hotel as possible, including light fixtures. Original tile floors that were covered with carpet are being cleaned. Molding is being restored as is the marble. Spots of the brass frame of the Otis elevator peek out from years of tarnish.

The Pennsylvania actually was in pretty good shape because it stayed open as a seasonal hotel until this winter. Moore said it is built of steel and poured concrete. In addition to the seven-floor building of rooms, the property includes a barber shop, beauty salon and florist plus the Keystone Club restaurant.

The biggest expense in the restoration will be the addition of central heat and air conditioning. The number of rooms is being reduced from 130 to 84, Moore said. Some of them will be suites, fashioned from adjoining rooms with one room used more as a sitting room.

Room rates have not been set yet, Moore said.

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