Cabana Club Gilds the Golden Age of Hospitality
By Bill Lopez
Photo by Bill Lopez
Rendering provided by RJ Hiesenbottle Architects
A rendering indicating the height of the Cabana Club relative to its neighbors on Sand Key is available at http://media.dhweb.com/belleview/cabclubheight.pdf
CLEARWATER - Not as tall as its neighbors, but far more fashionable, the new Cabana Club associated with the Belleview Biltmore will be a Clearwater treasure.
With only six floors and 38 rooms, the project is considered a boutique in the world of modern resorts. Biltmore restoration Architect Richard Heisenbottle unveiled plans for its development to a small audience at the historic landmark hotel Tuesday evening.
He indicated the Cabana Club portion of the entire $125 million renovation would take about 16 months to complete while the entire plan for the hotel renovation and new construction would take about 31 months.
The project is currently on hold awaiting resolution of a law suit filed by three residents of the Town of Belleair. Scott Spencer, Robert Swinehart and Fred Thomas who all live within 75 feet of the Belleview Biltmore have indicated in their law suit filed with the Appellate Division of the 6th Judicial Court in Florida that space configurations of the new plan do not conform with codes and that their appeals were not given sufficient hearings at a city code meeting. The appellants also take issue with what they assert will be a parking problem in the neighborhood as a result of the renovation plans.
During the presentation of the Cabana Club portion of the Biltmore project, the architect indicated that much of the parking will be taken inside thus alleviating external parking limitations. The suit was filed on June 19 and a resolution may take several months.
The main hotel located in the Town of Belleair will also be small by modern-day resort standards. With 252 rooms after the renovation, Biltmore owner-developer Legg Mason Real Estate Investors, Inc., who purchased the Biltmore properties in 2007, believes the Cabana Club will help establish the property as a world-class, Five Star financial success.
It is positioned as a beach resort destination capable of competing with the best of international properties alongside such well known resorts as the Del Coronado in San Diego, CA or the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, MI.
Additional rooms in a new east wing and cottage residences along with the Cabana Club's rooms will bring the total number of rooms up to approximately 425 rooms that will command average rates upwards from $300.
Beach access is what the original developer packaged and marketed so successfully in the late 1800's and it will be the linchpin of the new Belleview Biltmore's appeal to an international clientele, Heisenbottle said. Railroad tycoon Henry Plant first opened the doors of the original Belleview Biltmore in 1897 and the resort quickly became know as the "White Queen of the Gulf."
At that time in American history, rail transportation was king. Big steam locomotives hauled fancy club cars and sleepers across country through beautiful mountains, green forests, painted deserts and finally to the great sand beaches of both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. California and Florida emerged as premier destinations and remain the mainstays of a domestic travel industry generating many billons from national and international travelers.
The economic impact of Legg Masons' $125 million investment will be compounded many times over as tourists and business travelers experience the new Biltmore. A pleasant 1.5 mile ferry ride from the main hotel across the Intracoastal Waterway to Sand Key will take well healed patrons to a manicured sandy beach on the Gulf of Mexico at the expanded Biltmore Cabana Club.
Near the water's edge, beach enthusiasts will be greeted with canvas cabanas, cozy lounge chairs draped with lush beach towels and a wait staff with any variety of beverage to make a day in the Florida sun one to remember.
For those who prefer to stay beach side, reservations may well have to be made long in advance with the limited room availability. Nevertheless a first class restaurant inside the Cabana Club will cater to the Biltmore guests and the general public interested in a fine beach-style dining experience.
While developers address the law suit concerns, they are pressing ahead with necessary code modifications affecting the Cabana Club. These require approval of the Clearwater Community Development Department and include six deviations from present building codes in order to properly integrate the new Cabaņa Club into the site that calls for removal of the present restaurant building to make room for the new restaurant and residence.
The developers propose to the city a reduction in lot width to 88 feet where 200 feet is the present standard as well as a reduction in the front set back along Gulf Boulevard to five feet for the parking area where the standard is 25 feet.
An increase in allowable height of 25 feet to 67 feet will also be requested. Heisenbottle also indicated construction of the cabana is contingent on approval by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He said the deviations from present codes are modest in nature and necessary for proper development.
Contact Bill Lopez at email@example.com.
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