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Historic hotel makes ‘big’ move

The iconic 120-year-old Belleview Biltmore Hotel on Wednesday was relocated 320 feet to a new foundation on an adjacent piece of resort property. The move is part of the hotel’s refurbishing.
The iconic 120-year-old Belleview Biltmore Hotel on Wednesday was relocated 320 feet to a new foundation on an adjacent piece of resort property. The move is part of the hotel’s refurbishing.

The historic Belleview Biltmore Hotel made a big, but short, move Wednesday.

It took four hours to move the 38,000-square-foot building about 350 feet. The move is part of the hotel’s refurbishing. It will become the amenity center and boutique inn for Belleview Place in Belleair.

Pennsylvania-based Wolfe House and Building Movers used 47 eight-wheeled hydraulic dollies and a synchronized jacking system to move what’s left of the hotel.

“As we are moving, we have to take the steel plates out of the back of the building and move it to the front of the building,” project manager Jamin Buckingham said. “That’s the time-consuming process.”

Before the move, it took movers eight weeks to prepare the structure, which included rotating the building three quarters around to fit into place.

“There are tons of steel that go up underneath the building, and it all sits on these little dollies,” Wood said. “There are 47 dollies underneath the building that’ll bring it over to the new spot.”

Gail McGuire watched as the hotel rolled into place.

“What I remember 36 years ago was visiting my great grandfather in law, J.P. McGuire Sr. He would come to the hotel every winter,” McGuire said.

The cost to move and renovate the 120-year-old hotel is $13 million, according to the current owner, JMC Communities.

The project supervisor, Steve Wood with JMC Design & Development, said it’s the largest wooden structure ever moved.

The historic hotel was built in 1897 in Belleair and over the years housed celebrity guests such as Babe Ruth, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, as well as U.S. presidents from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama.

“It’s very important to people in Belleair,” Mike Cheezem, CEO of JMC Communities, said. “Their history is so intertwined with the history of that hotel. The community wouldn’t exist without the hotel.”

Over time, the Biltmore fell into disrepair and eventually closed in mid-2009.

It stayed that way for several years as local officials and a few interested developers grappled with what to do with the property.

In 2014, the Belleair Town Commission approved plans by JMC Communities for a $125 million development to tear down all but the original structure’s roughly 38,000-square-feet west wing.

The Belleview Inn is scheduled to reopen in mid-2018 and will be the longest continuously operated hotel built by Henry B. Plant. It will offer 35 guests rooms, a resort-style pool, grand lawn, Tiffany function room and a market and history room with artifacts.

The inn will be a gated development with 104 condominium residences and 28 carriage homes.

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