DUNEDIN — Once proposed for demolition, the historical Fenway Hotel has a new owner who plans to transform the property into its national headquarters and an international conference center.
The Taoist Tai Chi Society, a charitable, religious organization dedicated to the ancient martial art known as “moving meditation,” announced Friday that it purchased the historic hotel at 453 Edgewater Drive.
The society wants to restore the property that opened as a hotel in 1927 and enjoyed its heyday up until the 1950s.
City officials had all but written off the economic viability of the hotel, which needs everything from new windows to electrical wiring and significant interior remodeling.
The city passed an ordinance late last year that would allow a developer to tear down the old building provided it is rebuilt with the same design.
After the most recent round of talks to save the hotel by a father-daughter team fell through, the society made a bid for the property.
Some members of the business community were hoping that a 90-room boutique hotel, offering accommodations to the general public, would fill a void of available overnight accommodations near the city’s downtown.
The society has been members of the community since 2004, when it began offering health-benefiting programs at Hale Senior Activity Center at 330 Douglas Ave. Four years ago, after a period of membership growth, the society moved to a new facility at 1370 Main Street.
“As a dedicated member of the Dunedin community for years, we understand the historical importance of the Fenway and the warmth and love people have for this magnificent property,” said Sean Dennison, executive director of the Taoist Tai Chi Society of the United States of America.
The Fenway location will serve local residents who now use the Main Street facility, while also providing ample space as a national headquarters.
“The Society’s national operations are now run from a much smaller facility in Tallahassee,” Dennison said, adding that the Fenway “will be admired by thousands of visitors as they bring enthusiasm, vitality and economic activity to the area.”
The society has affiliated organizations in 26 countries with more than 42,000 participants, including 6,000 participants in the U.S. Many of these participants are expected to travel to Dunedin to attend its programs.
The city commission will still have to approve the organization’s site plan and development agreement that will govern the property’s change in accordance with city codes.