TAMPA, Fla. - Before long, people will soon be arriving at the 600 block of Florida Avenue in limos and taxis instead of handcuffs.
The old Federal Courthouse building, vacant for the last 16 years is being remade into a luxury boutique hotel with 130 rooms.
Mark House, of the Beck Group, builder and designer of this $30 million makeover gave us a tour of the 1905 beaux arts beauty. Instead of a judge, a maitre d' will preside over a massive dining room just inside the front door, with an opulent ballroom upstairs.
"You can even see the Federal Crest over the top of the wall where the judge used to sit," said House, pointing out a gilded American Eagle seal.
It's just one of the many details project manager Scott Campbell says would be impossible to replicate.
"It's a real luxury to have the marble which isn't even available now on the walls and on the ceiling. It's just not something that you could afford to put in place today," said Campbell.
But remodeling has its challenges. First, there was the asbestos removal. Historic guidelines require everything, including the old jury boxes and witness stands, to be repurposed somewhere in the building.
And while there's beautiful craftsmanship, there's not the precision buildings have today.
"When they made plans a hundred years ago, they made it with a pencil and some paper. It wasn't done exact with a computer or autocad. And the guys working on it had to change some things along the way and it was never recorded," said House.
About 140 workers are on the job during the construction phase. Over a hundred more will be hired to operate the Le Meridien hotel when it opens in June. Rooms will go for $160 to just under $300 a night.