The Belleview Biltmore Hotel has been sold to a developer, who plans to demolish 95% of the historic hotel.
When Henry B. Plant built the Belleview Hotel in 1896, he knew what he was doing. His surveyors spent 7 years finding the best property in west FL on which to build. The property he selected for the Belleview Hotel is the highest coastal bluff in Florida (almost 100′ above sea level) and the sun shines there on more days than almost anywhere else in Florida.
Developers have been drooling over the property for decades, and as my late father-in-law was famous for saying, “Figures can lie and liars can figure.” Developers used stilted figures, paid experts and one-sided arguments to convince the Town leaders that the hotel would be impossible to restore and even if restored, it would be impossible to fill. Even though proponents of saving the hotel argue the developer’s claims aren’t valid, preservationists don’t have the money to hire their own attorneys and experts to refute the developer’s claims effectively. Although those who volunteer their professional services are to be commended, they simply can’t compete strongly enough to forward the cause of preservation.
Add to this mix, the fact that at least two of the Town’s Commissioners have stated openly that they want to see the hotel demolished because they want to buy one of the developer’s new condos, and what little air the preservationists had in their sails is all but lost.
Although there are still two on-going lawsuits aimed at trying to save the grand, historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel, the likelihood that it will be saved is unfortunately, almost nil. As a huge fan of the Belleview Biltmore, the thought of losing the hotel sickens me to the point that I’m not sure I’ll want to continue living near the site if it’s demolished.
I believe I can only do three things at this point:
1. I can hope for a miracle — that one or both of the lawsuits will prevail somehow and the hotel will be saved.
2. I can write my novels in a way that the history of the hotel will be preserved for all time, no matter what happens to the structure, and
3. I can hope the developer will remain true to his word and save at least 5% of the grand hotel, to be incorporated into a small inn on the property.