|By Richard Mullins, Tampa Tribune,
Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 20, 2012--TAMPA -- For almost two decades, the historic Floridan Hotel sat abandoned in downtown Tampa. Parts of the roof caved in, and vultures flew through the open windows and made nests in the upper rooms.
Then in 2005, Antonios Markopoulos bought the derelict building for $6 million and began a painstaking renovation. Teams of contractors gutted the plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and elevators. Hundreds of rooms were broken apart and remade into larger suites in a beaux-arts style with marble bathrooms and flat-panel televisions.
Weeks ago, managers started hiring staff for the hotel, restaurants and bar. Now the hotel finally has scheduled an opening ceremony, for the evening of July 28, a Saturday.
It begins a new chapter for a hotel that first opened in 1927 and became a downtown landmark. It closed in 1989 after the owners failed to bring it up to code.
The new name is the Floridan Palace, said the general manager, Angelo Markopoulos.
The hotel formally will open to the public on July 30, a Monday, and start taking reservations in person and through a direct phone number, (813) 225-1700. Soon after, the hotel could start appearing on computer systems used by travel agents, but it might take a few weeks for the hotel's website to start taking reservations and two months before it appears on travel websites such as Travelocity.
Rates will range from $199 to $279 for standard rooms. Rates for suites aren't finalized but could reach $350 a night. The price for the two penthouse suites aren't set yet.
A booked-up hotel would help offset the cost of renovations that Angelo Markopoulos said reached several times the $6 million purchase price. Rather than take a flag brand such as Hyatt or Hilton, the hotel will remain independent, Markopoulos said.
The hotel is fully booked for the week of the Republican National Convention in late August, with media outlets taking the bulk of the rooms and meeting space. And reservations have been made for several weddings and Christmas parties.
The Crystal Dining Room and the Sapphire Lounge bar both will open to the public July 30.
Artists restored much of the hotel to its former glory, including huge crystal chandeliers in the lobby, wrought iron banisters on the stairs, polished stone floors, octagonal inlay ceilings and even hand-painted scenes of angels at the top of the walls. The owners bought new furniture for the rooms and had teams of tailors make white curtains for the arched lobby windows.
There will be valet and 24-hour concierge service, and the Crystal Dining Room will serve Mediterranean and continental cuisine. The Sapphire Lounge was remade, and officials said bartenders will serve a vodka martini from the hotel's heyday, a popular drink nicknamed "Between the Sheets."
A renovated 10,000-square-foot ballroom already has hosted a few private events. A second phase of renovation will open a vintage barbershop, on-site spa, tennis and swimming facility and art gallery.
The 19-story hotel, at 905 N. Florida Ave., will face stiff competition downtown.
A former federal courthouse just down the street is being renovated into a boutique hotel, with an opening date of February 2014, and other developers are planning a major new hotel in the core of downtown by the University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Clinical Learning and Simulation.
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