Hundreds of jobs headed to Bay Area with old courthouse morphing into Le Meridien Hotel

New hotel groundbreaking to revamp downtown Tampa

TAMPA BAY - On the heels of President Obama's State of the Union address, where he detailed the need for jobs creation in the country, a groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Tampa which will do just that.

The old federal courthouse located at 601 N. Florida Avenue isn't much of a looker right now, but its estimated in about 14 months, it will be one of the most visited and praised buildings in downtown Tampa.  A renovation project, years in the making, will help to do that.

While the restoration of the 106-year-old building will attract crowds and financially boost nearby businesses, transforming the Beaux-arts style building will bring 400 temporary jobs to the area as well.  Those who will help revamp it from the inside out.  Then there will be 100 permanent jobs to keep the hotel up and running once it opens.

The $25 million dollar idea turned reality started last April in a Tampa City Council meeting as leaders brainstormed what the dilapidated building, yet historic site, could be converted into.  A 130-room hotel, with three story columns, complete with outdoor dining, restaurant, a ballroom and a meeting room was the consensus.

But the build out comes with its challenges.  The old courthouse, which used to be a post office and a customs house before seeing some of the most notorious criminals walk through its doors, was built in the early 1900's.  That said, there are no blue prints for contractors to work from. There are only floor plans, which don't specify where important support structures are in the walls.  Work will have to be done through laser technology to identify load bearing walls. 

To add a little more to the task, the historic nature of the building has to be preserved under federal law, making this even more of an engineering challenge.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Le Meridien Hotel is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at 2:00.

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