Tampa officials break ground on renovation to old downtown courthouse listen02/13/13 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tampa officials broke ground on renovations to the more than one century old federal courthouse in downtown Wednesday. After a lot of debate over what to do with the historical structure, Mayor Buckhorn got the wheels rolling in 2011 by asking for proposals to turn the building into a high-end hotel. Today, Buckhorn is celebrating what will soon become Le Meridien.
â€œI couldnâ€™t be more excited. Itâ€™s been vacant and boarded up for ten years, at least. It is the most magnificent structure that we have in downtown Tampa. To know that the shutters are coming off and that itâ€™s going to be activated and redeveloped as a 110-room boutique hotel, bringing to life the most significant building, really is great. That just shows that downtown is alive and well, that people are interested in it, theyâ€™re willing to invest it and thatâ€™s not the end thatâ€™s just not the end, thatâ€™s just the beginning of a lot of good stuff to come.â€
The building was constructed in the early 1900s and used as a post office and customs house before becoming a courthouse. According to a press release from the Mayorâ€™s office, construction on the 130-room hotel and ballroom is expected to take 14-months and cost $25 million. The project is being undertaken by a Memphis-based developer credited with a similar project in Philadelphia.
â€œIt is a gorgeous building â€“ marble floors, high ceilings, very ornate architecture, itâ€™s historically significant and itâ€™s going to be a spectacular four star hotel and I cannot wait to be the first guy to stay the night there.â€
Though the building contains tons of historic ornaments like benches and wall hangings, Buckhorn said not much is likely to be salvaged unless itâ€™s being used in the hotel. He is keeping a century-old placard of the bill of rights that will be on display at City Hall.