Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore &
BonSue Brandvik – Combined Newsletter
2013 August Newsletter
My New Website: http://www.BonSueBrandvik.com
I’m sorry I vanished from Cyberspace for the last several months, but I’ve been undergoing the process of merging my two websites into one. While a difficult undertaking, the merging process will allow me to combine all of my interests into one website location: The Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Ghosts and Spirits, The history of Belleair, Clearwater and surrounding areas, Writing paranormal/historic romance novels, and Writing children’s books.
I will be able to more easily update information about the Belleview Biltmore and add photos as they come into my possession. I’ll be able to let those interested in the preservation of the historic “White Queen of the Gulf” know about activities that may affect those efforts. I’ll be able to let you know where I will be speaking, if you have an interest in attending. I’ll be able to tell you about my books and let you know if they become available in a new format. I’ll be able to share links to other sites you might find of interest. I’ll even be able to provide links to purchase my books and let you know what to expect in the near future. The site also allows me to connect all my social networking sites together. It’s amazing what technology can do!
Eventually, my website: www.SpiritsOfBelleviewBiltmore.com will go away, but for now, I will keep hosting that site for people who wish to delve into it’s archives. Although you can still access the site, you can no longer contact me there and I can’t update that site. Most of the information that is contained on the www.SpiritsOfBelleviewBiltmore.com site has been duplicated on my new site: www.BonSueBrandvik.com, but getting everything moved over will take time. Please be patient.
My new site has tons of technical bells, whistles and gongs. Unfortunately, I am technically tone-deaf, so it’s going to take me a while to learn how to use them to best provide you with all the information you would like to find on my site. Please bear with me and feel free to contact me with suggestions for improvements. By the way, my new site was designed and is maintained by Tim Huck of www.TextToScreen.com. If you’re looking for website work, I recommend his professional expertise. Nuff said.
It’s no secret that the Belleview Biltmore is fighting for its survival right now. The hotel, built in 1896, closed to undergo a total renovation just before the financial meltdown and collapse of the real estate market bubble. The owners at the time, the Legg Mason Real Estate Investors (LMREI) lost their investors and because they had already closed and gutted the hotel, they couldn’t reopen the Belleview Biltmore and simply postpone the renovation until the financial market stabilized.
In lieu of foreclosure, the property was sold to KAWA (Raphael and Daniel Ades) for a mere $8 million dollars, a quarter of its appraised value. Unfortunately, this owner has no interest in renovating the hotel, and has had no qualms with subdividing the property and selling-off valuable assets. Despite heavy fines for violating the Town of Belleair’s Historic Preservation Ordinance, they also refuse to make even temporary repairs to the roof of the hotel, which was damaged by hurricanes several years ago. The Ades Brothers have made it known from the beginning that they have no interest in renovating or operating a hotel. They have stated that selling the hotel “as is” would not provide the best return on their investment. They would prefer to demolish the hotel and replace it with a combination of town-homes and condominiums, leaving nothing behind but photographs and memories of the hotel.
Fortunately for preservationists and those who want very badly to see the hotel restored, the hotel is built of heart pine. When a Southern Pine tree matures, the inside of the tree becomes so dense with sap that not even termites can penetrate it, and over time, that sap hardens, or petrifies. That means that the vast majority of the wooden hotel remains salvageable, despite the “Demolition by Neglect” the hotel has suffered at the hands of its current owners. Furthermore, engineering studies show the building is sound and feasibility studies indicate that restoring the hotel is in the best financial interest of the Town of Belleair (the town that was literally built around the hotel.)
On the other hand, the building has been sitting vacant for four years and due to the prison-like fence that surrounds the property and the lack of grounds maintenance, the Belleview Biltmore property is becoming an eyesore that is not contributing financially to the town’s economy. Other than the hotel, the tiny town of Belleair is almost entirely residential, so this loss of income is extremely painful to the town’s budget. Also, many Americans don’t place significant value on historic buildings. Sure they would like to see the historic hotel rebuilt, but they also tend to give up easily on that quest.
There is still hope for the hotel’s restoration. A group in Coral Gables, Florida (Belleview Biltmore Partners – BBP) continues to press forward in their attempt to purchase and restore the hotel and a few others have expressed an interest as well. Hopefully, the economy will spring back enough to make investors a little more comfortable about loosening their purse strings for a project that will take a few years to start providing a return on their investment.
There are also successful restoration precedents in the area that give preservationists reason to hope. The 1925 Vinoy Hotel was closed, gutted and fenced-in during the recession of 1974. Located in St. Petersburg; about a 15-20 minutes drive from the closest beach, the Vinoy remained closed for 18 years before a $93 million historic renovation restored it to a 4-star luxury hotel. Hopefully, the Belleview Biltmore will have the same happy outcome and enjoy another century of success, however, it is doubtful that the Town of Belleair will be willing to wait 18 years to save this historic hotel. Therefore, If you have any influence over a philanthropic investor or two, please let them know about the plight of the Belleview Biltmore and do it soon.
“Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” – Now Available in Audio Format
For those of you who never seem to have time to sit down and read a book in print or e-book format, “Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” is now available in downloadable audio file format. Enjoy eleven and a half hours of entertainment as actress Emily Gittleman reads the story to you while you run errands, drive to work, do the laundry, watch the kids soccer practice, cook dinner, etc. Check it out at: Amazon.com or Audible.com By the way, if you open an Audible account and choose “Pearls: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” as your first audio book selection, they will let you have it for free!
My newest children’s book is available in print format on Amazon.com and is on sale, this week only, for $7.79 (regularly $9.99.) This is a great little story about two boys who find themselves on Santa’s Naughty List. When one of them knocks Santa out and steals his magic “Time-Stopper-House-Hopper” the other boy must decide whether or not to go along with the plan to steal Santa’s toys or help Santa save Christmas for all the Nice Children — even though he knows Santa is only bringing him a lump of coal for Christmas!
“Ripples: Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore”
The long-awaited second book in the “Spirits of the Belleview Biltmore” series is nearing completion. In this novel, Lilyanna Thorne checks into the Belleview Biltmore Hotel while tending to her maternal Grandmother, who is at Morton Plant Hospital, following a stroke.
Lily has already suffered one tremendous loss and now she is losing the woman who raised her ever since she was abandoned by her mother on her 5th birthday. Her plight resonates with spirits who stayed at the historic Belleview Biltmore hotel during the Prohibition Era, when the hotel boasted a not-so-secret speakeasy and rum was smuggled into and out of the property in railroad boxcars. Lily shares the spirits’ memories as she sleeps and considers an affair with a temporarily blinded biker in her waking hours, all the while wondering if it’s possible for Humpty Dumpty to ever be put back together again