A group that has for years sought funding to restore the dormant Belleview Biltmore hotel property said it finally has the money.
The announcement comes at the 11th hour, as the town is poised to move forward on changes to its books that could precipitate the demolition of the historic structure, which was built in 1897. The aging building has not been operational since 2009, and many surrounding residents say it’s time to take it down, given the affect its deteriorating condition has on property values.
Despite being met with skepticism, the Belleview Biltmore Partners said its proposal could be a game changer.
“Our group, the Belleview Biltmore Partners, have a financial commitment to totally restore the Belleview Biltmore,” said Gary Rosenberg, a managing member of the group. “I think in prior times that was never a real possibility.”
He said a private equity group capable of funding the entire project has stepped up, but he declined to say which firm. The partners plan to share the proposal with town commissioners, though not at Tuesday’s meeting.
“This is a giant yawn,” said Ed Armstrong, the attorney who represents the current owners, Ralph and Daniel Ades of Kawa Capital Management. “It’s more of the same - an attempt to delay by people who are desperate.”
He said the Ades brothers still are under contract to sell the property to St. Petersburg developer Michael Cheezem, who has said he wants to preserve some of the building, but demolish most of it to make way for condominiums.
Belleview Biltmore Partners, meanwhile, has come forward several times to purchase the property, only to have the funding fall through at the last minute.
Rosenberg said the what’s different this time is that they’re bringing tangible proof to the table.
“This is incredibly real and incredibly serious and we have doc of this kind of financial commitment,” he said.
The Belleair Town Commission meets at 5:30 tonight to discuss reducing the total minimum acreage required for a hotel property from 20 acres to 15, a move that would allow the Belleview Biltmore Country Club to purchase some of the hotel land for parking space.