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Tampa, Florida Seeking Bids for Developer to Turn
Historic Courthouse into Hotel

By Christian M. Wade, Tampa Tribune, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 09, 2011--TAMPA -- Throughout the years, Tampa's old federal courthouse has been considered for the site of a law school, office building, immigration center and even a homeless shelter.

But none of the ideas for its use, some of which gained more traction than others, ever got off the ground, in most cases because of an inability to get financing.

Now, the city, which owns the building, is making another push to find a new tenant, this time as a luxury hotel complex.

On Tuesday, city officials began soliciting bids from developers to rehabilitate the aging downtown structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"The building is going to need some love," said Bob McDonough, the city's interim urban development manager. "So it has to be something that can be financially sustainable."

He said the city's bid solicitation targets current a hotel development.

"This is an excellent opportunity to re-energize one of downtown's grand historic buildings," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said in a statement Tuesday. "A luxury hotel in this building would be a magnet that not only illustrates quality urban design and function, but will also serve to stimulate additional growth in the neighborhood."

In the past century, the building -- with its beaux-arts architecture, towering hallways, ornate ceilings, marble walls and floors -- has served various uses, including as a post office and U.S. Customs House.

In 1998, the U.S. District courthouse was relocated to an $81 million building a few blocks away. Five years later, the city bought the old building for $1.

Among the proposals over the years: an art museum, a homeless shelter, a Florida A&M University Law School campus, a hotel and restaurant, city government offices, and a school.


(c)2011 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

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