For seven years, Antonios Markopoulos has painstakingly renovated the historic Floridan Hotel that sat abandoned downtown for almost two decades.
Parts of the roof had caved in and chicken hawks flew through the open windows, casually walked the hallways and made nests in the upper rooms.
Then in 2005, Markopolos bought the property for $6 million and slowly had individual teams of contractors gut the plumbing, electrical, air conditioning and elevators. Hundreds of rooms were broken apart and remade into larger suites in a Beaux-Arts style with marble bathrooms and flat-panel televisions.
Weeks ago, managers started hiring staff for the hotel, restaurants and bars.
Now the hotel has finally scheduled an opening ceremony: July 28.
The new name is the "Floridan Palace."
A final date for the first guests to stay or a price per night isn't set, but there will be 196 rooms, two penthouse suites and 15 junior executive suites.
There will be valet service and 24-hour concierge, and the Crystal Dining Room will serve Mediterranean and continental cuisine. The Sapphire Lounge was remade, and officials said bartenders will serve a martini popular from the hotel's heyday, nicknamed "Between the Sheets."
A renovated 10,000-square-foot ballroom has already hosted a few private events. A second phase of renovation will open a vintage barber shop, on-site spa, tennis and swimming facility, and art gallery.
The 19-story hotel, at 905 N. Florida Ave., will face stiff competition downtown.
A former federal courthouse just down the street is being renovated into a new boutique hotel, with an opening date of February 2014, and other developers are planning a major new hotel in the core of downtown by the University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation.
The hotel opened in 1927 and became a downtown landmark. It closed in 1989 after the owners failed to bring it up to code.