Real Estate News for North Pinellas County

Archive for July 9th, 2009

Dunedin awaits rebirth of Fenway Hotel

Dunedin's Fenway Hotel

Dunedin's Fenway Hotel

If I could travel through time, I think I might like to visit West Central Florida around 1925. The area was in the middle of a big land boom, and communities such as Clearwater and Dunedin were in the middle of exciting growth.

 Downtown areas were being developed, new hotels and commercial buildings were being built, and some beautiful and expensive private homes were going up.
 
Some residents of Dunedin felt that their community was being left a bit behind. Visitors to the area were attracted to Clearwater and St. Petersburg, not to Dunedin, which didn’t have the kind of resort hotel that people flocked to in the 1920s to escape the cold and snow of their native northern homes.

fenway-fenway-smallA local realty company decided to try to do something about that, and started pushing the idea of a very high-end resort hotel on Dunedin’s Main Street (now Edgewater Drive). The financing scheme seems a little offbeat – the developers asked every Dunedin resident to chip in a few bucks, and quite a few stepped up and did just that.
 
A Clearwater developer, George H. Bowles, paid $250,000 for a controlling interest in the still-unfinished hotel, and he was able to find the financing necessary to complete the project. The hotel opened in 1925.

One interesting feature that Bowles brought to the new hotel was WGHB, the first commercial radio station in the area. Bowles was a big radio enthusiast, and the December opening ceremonies of the Fenway were carried on a six-hour broadcast that was beamed across the country.

Remains of the Fnway Hotel pier

Remains of the Fenway Hotel pier

The Fenway attracted many wealthy visitors and it was an important icon of Dunedin through the late 1950s. But like many grand hotels of that era, it fell into disrepair and went out of business. It later became the campus of Trinity College, which then took the name of its parent institution, Schiller International University.

In recent months, a St. Petersburg attorney, George Rahdert, has stepped forward with plans to re-develop the old Fenway. There has been a lot of vigorous debate about what the Fenway’s future would be, from demolition to a reinvigorated hotel. Rahdert wants to restore the existing hotel and add new wings.
 
Some neighbors aren’t very happy about a new commercial enterprise operating near their homes. Other local residents are delighted that such an historic relic might be saved and restored.
 
The Fenway by the Bay Hotel that Rahdert envisions would include a ballroom, a 150-seat restaurant and more than 100 hotel rooms. What the developers have in mind is a “condotel,”. a facility where people can purchase suites which they could occupy for part of the year and rent out as hotel rooms at other times.

The project is now going through county review and approval processes. 

Go here for more information about the Fenway Hotel project.

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