TAMPA, Fla. - At 19 stories and 240 feet, the Hotel Floridan was the tallest building in Florida when it was under construction in 1923. When it opened in 1927, it was Tampa’s original skyscraper.
Decades later, in 2006, it faced the wrecking ball – until the Markopoulos family stepped in and bought it for $6 million.
"It was a great journey for the family because I have seven kids and all the kids pretty much grew up here," offered Angelo Markopoulos.
They spent millions of dollars restoring the intricate detail of the lobby and the Crystal Dining Room. But despite its historic splendor, the success of the hotel, now known as The Floridan Palace Hotel, has been tempered.
"Some of the challenges for the Floridan were evident when it was tried to put in play for the Republican National Convention," explained Alexis Muellner, editor of the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
Some have said it’s too far from Tampa’s new Water Street downtown redevelopment area and too far off the Tampa Riverwalk. Nearby residents say the hotel sometimes appears deserted.
Now the Markopoulos family has sold its labor of love to new owners.
"They’re going to take this hotel and they’re going to make it the jewel of Tampa," said Angelo. "It’s going to become quite the property when they’re finished with it."
The new owners of the Floridan also own the Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach. They paid $22.5 million for the Floridan, along with some property nearby.
"There is some opportunity, I think, to tear down some walls and make some bigger rooms," suggested Muellner. "It has a wonderful charm to it."
He expects the Floridan will become a boutique hotel with one of the large hotel brands such as Hilton or Hyatt. It comes complete with historic landmark status and a rich Tampa history.
Some believe development will spread north to the Floridan. Tampa’s Cass Street Corridor is already coming to life with new businesses and residential properties.
"Selling it was bittersweet because of the memories we all had here," Markopoulos added. Those memories may now fold into the future of Tampa’s original skyscraper.
In a written statement, the new owner, 1754 Properties, says "significant renovation" is planned. They say they intend to be "good stewards of the hotel’s intriguing past."