From the outside, the old courthouse in downtown Tampa really doesn't look much different.
But step inside and the 109-year-old building on North Florida Avenue has been transformed. The old courthouse is now the Le Meridien Hotel.
"I couldn't be more excited,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “I swear I’m like a little kid."
In 2011, the city decided to look for a developer willing to turn the old courthouse into a high-end hotel. A development company out of Tennessee decided to take on the privately funded project.
"We immediately fell in love with the building, the architectural elements," said Gary Prosterman, with Development Services Group.
Developers say it's been a challenge to maintain the building's history and charm while making it a modern place to stay.
"We preserved all the features, the marble, the terrazzo, the wood ceilings,” said Prosterman. “We have eight foot wide corridors and 14 foot tall ceilings throughout the hotel."
The courtroom where criminals were once sentenced is now a grand ballroom and judges' chambers have been turned into guest rooms complete with plush bedding. The judges’ bench is now part of the business center in the lobby.
Judges and attorneys who used to work at the courthouse took a tour of the hotel, saying it brings back memories.
"So many folks were prosecuted here in very difficult criminal trials, so many different civil cases involving millions and millions of dollars,” said Circuit Court Judge Holder. “Many of us on the bench now practiced here as lawyers, like I did, and it's just a great sense of pride that we're preserving this part of Tampa."
They say the hotel blends the old with the new and city officials hope it helps "court" more new tourists to downtown.
The hotel will have a restaurant that's open to the public.
During the off-season room rates start at about $120 a night and then go up from there.