Photo(downtownjacksonville.org): The interior of the Bostwick Building.
Slated for possible demolition in the past, the Bostwick Building, also known to some as the Jaguar Building, was on the chopping black once again this week as the Jacksonville’s City Council’s Land Use and Zoning Committee met with current owners Karl and Val Bostwick on what to do with it, grant permission to demolish it or give it historic status?
In September 2012, a demolition permit was denied by the city’s historic preservation committee and said they would seek historic landmark designation for the building, against the owners’ wishes. The landmark designation would make the building eligible for grants and tax credits.
The Bostwick Building, originally know as the Guaranty Trust and Savings Building, was built in 1902, the first building permitted after the Great Fire. Vacant since the 1980s, the structure has deteriorated over the years, including having the roof collapse which led to significant water damage.
This past Tuesday, the City Council Land use and Zoning Committee voted unanimously with 7-0 votes against demolishing the building and granting it historic landmark designation.
Karl Bostwick argued that the decision to denote the building historic infringes on property rights, designation limits potential buyers and decreases market value and that rehabilitating the structure to code is not cost prohibitive. and that demolition is the “only solution” to make the building code compliant.
Despite his arguments, there has been interest in the building in the past year. The furthest an agreement got was with Jacques Klempf, CEO of the Dixie Egg Co. who planned on restoring the building and turning it into a restaurant. A deal was struck in April and extended six times, but due to a lawsuit regarding water intrusion by the building’s neighbor was not resolved, Klempt decided to let the contract expire. When asked at the meeting if he still has interest in purchasing the building, he said he did but would come to the table with different terms. After the meeting, he said he would take a “wait-and-see” approach.
Photo: The hotel was built by Henry B. Plant to boost tourism on his railroad line along the west coast of Florida.
The Belleview Hotel, as it was initially known, was constructed by Henry B. Plant as a resort destination to boost tourist travel on his railroad line serving the west coast of Florida, which he had acquired in 1893 as part of his expanding Plant System network of railroads. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which absorbed the Plant System lines in 1902, continued to operate the Pinellas Special train from New York City to a siding on the hotel’s property in the 1920s.
During World War II, the hotel served as lodging for servicemen who were stationed at Macdill Air Force Base in Tampa. In the 1970s and 1980s, the aging hotel began to decline as changing travel patterns and intensified competition from newer beach-front motels caused significant losses.
In preparation for his 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, musician Bob Dylan spent much of April rehearsing at the Belleview Biltmore with his troupe. Band members included Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, violinist Scarlet Rivera, and folk queen Joan Baez. Dylan would eventually play two shows on the 22nd in the hotel’s Starlight Ballroom.
Photo: The hotel served as lodging for serviceman stationed at Macdill Air Force Base in Tampa.
A Japanese company, Mido Development, purchased the hotel in 1991 and made many repairs and additions, including a new spa area and entrance, later selling the property to hotelier Salim Jetha in 1997. The addition was made to create a more modern appearance upon entry, At the same time, the fifth floor of the building was closed off and left in a varying state[clarification needed] of disrepair. In 2001, attempts were made to restore common areas and guest rooms continuing on to 2004. During the summer of 2004, the hotel suffered a glancing blows from hurricanes Jeane and Francis, causing severe damage to an already deteriorated roof, setting the plans to fully restore the building into limbo. Tom Cook Construction Inc. was hired to place protective coverings over the building while plans were made to replace this part of the building.
In late 2004, DeBartolo Development Group offered to purchase the property from Belleview Biltmore Resort, Ltd., then owned by Urdang and Associates, to demolish the hotel structure and replace it with retail shopping and condominiums. The proposal was withdrawn in January 2005, however, after public outrage over the plan, the developers citing lack of public support. However, in April 2005, published reports said that the DeBartolo group was once again planning to purchase the hotel, and had it under contract with Urdang and Associates, raising concerns among historic preservationists when it was disclosed that DeBartolo had filed a demolition permit application with the town of Belleair to demolish the Belleview Biltmore.
Preservationists argued that measures to protect historic structures should be adopted by Pinellas County or the town of Belleair, citing hotels elsewhere of similar age which have been successfully restored while offering updated services and amenities, such as the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, and the Williamsburg Inn in Williamsburg, Virginia.
On March 9, 2007, the St. Petersburg Times reported that Legg Mason had entered into a purchase contract for the hotel, with the intent of preserving it. “Executives with Legg Mason Real Estate Investors would not disclose the proposed purchase price or the closing date, but said in a written statement they had a contract to buy the resort and intend to preserve the 110-year-old hotel,” the Times reported. Legg Mason engaged the services of historic preservation architect Richard J. Heisenbottle, FAIA to prepare restoration and re-development plans for the project. In May 2008, the Town of Belleair approved Heisenbottle’s plans to restore and expand the hotel, which included a new spa and underground garages, following purchase of the property by Legg Mason Real Estate Investors (now Latitude Management Real Estate Investors) for $30.3 million.
On January 29, 2009, it was announced that the resort would close at the end of May for the three-year, $100 million renovation project, reopening in 2012, the hotel’s managing director said. Following the hotel’s mid-2009 closing, however, an attorney for owner Latitude Management said that the renovation work has been stalled due to litigation by nearby residents, who object to some aspects of the re-development plans. Meanwhile, the Belleair code board voted on November 2, 2009, to begin fining the owners of the now-closed hotel $250 per day for failure to repair the hotel’s “dilapidated and deteriorated” roof.
Photo(James Davidson, 2012): Chutes or rather, makeshift gutters, were installed to funnel water from the leaking roof to outside the windows.
In 2010, it became very apparent that the Legg-Mason plan would not come to pass, due to the economy. Legg-Mason backed out of its plans to restore the Hotel and re-open it. The hotel went back on the market. In 2011, a group of investors, the Ades brothers, from Miami, had begun to purchase the hotel.
In December 2011, the new owners of the hotel had indicated that they planned to demolish the hotel to replace it with condominiums. Indications were given to the town government that a demolition permit to demolish the hotel would be applied for in January 2012. The government according to reports expressed unwillingness to attempt circumvent or halt the demolition and would be likely to approve the plan to demolish the historic hotel.
On March 3, 2012, architect Richard Heisenbottle and two partners formed Belleview Biltmore Partners LLC, and signed a sales option agreement with the current owner, Raphael and Daniel Ades, and the group is trying to raise capital to buy the hotel and restore it.
On January 30, 2013 it was reported that Tampa Developer Brian Taub bought the Cabana Restaurant and Grille for $2.1 million. It is no longer part of the Bellview Biltmore Hotel. Taub says the Cabana Restaurant and Grille will be demolished to make way for 23 condos he plans to build on the site. His new building will be six stories over parking. He said the new structure will not look anything like the Cabana Restaurant and Grille or the neighboring Cabana Club Condominiums. He plans, pending city approval, to begin construction sometime this summer.
On August 8, 2013 a newspaper article stated that the owners proposed a plan to demolish the hotel and replace it with 32 townhomes and 136 condominiums in an architectural style reflecting the original hotel. Owners later stated that plans to save the hotel form demolition are dead after Belleview Biltmore Partners failed to come up with the money to purchase the property by the October 31, 2013 deadline. Heisenbottle said he will continue with efforts to purchase the property.
Photo(James Davidson, 2012): The Starlight Ballroom, where Bob Dylan played two shows during his 1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour.
Brochure; scanned by James Davidson
Photographer: James Davidson
Year Taken: 2012
Arcades seem to be an archaic concept, especially now with the advent of other amusements due to technology. However, old souls and history buffs cannot forget the entertainment that these places bring, and in Florida one of the oldest arcades is the Historic Arcade Theatre. This structure was built by the Heitman brothers (Gilmer and Harvie) in 1915 and was originally a movie theater and vaudeville house. Historian TM Jacobs said that the arcade was a stage for magic acts, plays, and local talent nights—people even came by boats which were docked on Bay Street in order to attend such shows back then.
Florida Repertory now considers the Arcade Theatre as its home, and the organization’s website features its historical background. According to FloridaRep.org, the popularity of vaudeville declined in 1917 so silent pictures were shown in the theater as an alternative. Even famous Fort Myers residents Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were rumored to be among the first audiences to enjoy the screenings. After successful upgrades during the 1930s the theater became fully operational as a movie house until the 70s. However, it closed in 1984, but was later restored in 1991 as a venue for local performing artists. In 1998, the Florida Rep took up residence there, and it has been the group’s home ever since.
Arcades seemed to have disappeared in Florida after a new state law restricted some of its standard operating practices. Some of the usual prizes (such as gift cards) were banned, making arcades less attractive to players. This prompted frequent players to explore other avenues online; Betfair Arcade, one of the best known operators in online gaming according to a review by Cleopatra, caters to gamers who like both traditional and modern arcade games, so the site is among the top choices. These are similar to the retrofitted and coin-operated machines in family arcades.
The Huffington Post reported that a number of arcades have reopened—about 40 out of 200 members of the Florida Arcade and Bingo Association became operational again. Unfortunately, around 30 are shutting down entirely. There are initiatives to question the enforced law which placed certain restrictions on arcade gaming, and lawyer Michael Wolf said that if the state will clamp down on family arcades, there will be an increase in public resistance. As of the moment, we have yet to see how all these will pan out, and whether arcades will form part of the relics that Florida has.