It's the beginning of the end for the Belleview Biltmore hotel.
Work began on Friday to demolish the 820,000 square foot structure. The Candlelight room was the first piece torn down. This signals the end to a contentious battle between Belleair town officials and some preservationists who wanted to save the century old resort.
It's a demolition Belleair Mayor Gary Katica says has been long overdue.
“We have probably 4,800 people in this city and it's probably 10 people that are still actively thinking that they are going to restore the Biltmore,” said Katica. “It’s done.
Built in 1897, the hotel was known as “The White Queen of the Gulf” until it closed it 2009. Despite efforts to find a suitable buyer will in to restore the complex, the Biltmore fell in to decay.
Although a developer has plans to restore a small portion of the landmark as a boutique hotel, some that opposed the demolition say, that’s not enough. So they’ve filed several lawsuits hoping to stop the wrecking ball before anymore of the structure is destroyed, but the court has not set hearing for those suits.
Crews have put a green screen around the fencing of the huge complex.
“I went there today and they were taking a part the candlelight room and the next day is going to be the spa and part of the pagoda entrance and the pool,” said Katica.
In its place will be a smaller boutique hotel constructed from a portion of the historic structure, but development is still a long way off until old hotel is truly history.