PHOTOS: Water damage, decay inside the Belleview Biltmore - New York News

PHOTOS: Water damage, decay inside the Belleview Biltmore

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BELLAIR (FOX 13) -

First, 2004's unusually busy hurricane season shredded the roofs of the Belleview Biltmore. Then the passing years shredded the blue tarps.

Now there is significant water damage throughout what was formerly believed to be the world's largest occupied wooden structure.

FOX 13's Steve Nichols got a look inside the water-damaged, decrepit corridors.

"The length of these corridors," Belleair Mayor Gary Katica pondered Wednesday. "I mean, just imagine being a room service waiter. They're like a quarter mile long."

The building itself is 820,000 square feet, the steeply-angled roofs totaling 4.5 square miles. When the Belleview Hotel opened in the late 1890s, it catered to a clientele that arrived in private railroad cars.

The evidence of luxuries are still visible: The spa, the patisserie, ornate woodwork and Tiffany glass windows, and skylights still mostly intact.

More than a century of use is also evident.

"One of the problems in this building is, it has to be leveled before they can start. There's an area that has sunk," Katica said. "I don't know how you level five stories."

And then there is the water damage. Portions of the ceilings in nearly every area are falling down on the first floor. The upper stories are no longer safe, according to Katica.

For that reason, we were only allowed to photograph the first-floor, where plaster walls are falling apart, and mold can be seen throughout.

Last month, an architect who hoped to initiate a $200 million renovation missed his last deadline to purchase the property.

Now, Katica and other members of the town commission are considering changing zoning ordinances to allow demolition of the Belleview Biltmore and construction of 164 town homes and condominium units.

"I mean it just reeks history as you go along," Katica said. "What a shame -- a national treasure like this."

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