Keynote Speaker Crist Commends Legg Mason for Going Green
photo/text by Renee Burrell
"The Belleview Biltmore is a fixture in this community and its preservation is crucial to our culture and historical industries," said Governor Crist. (Pictured left to right) John Hildreth, Governor Charlie Crist, and Joseph Penner
BELLEAIR - Governor Charlie Crist applauded green building efforts in Pinellas and Sarasota counties Monday. His first stop was the Belleview Biltmore Resort for a press conference with John Hildreth from the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Southern Office and Joseph Penner, the Managing Director of Legg Mason Real Estate Investors and owners of the resort.
Speaking from the stairs of the hotel's original porch entrance, Penner announced plans for seeking the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Crist commended Legg Mason Investments for plans to meet green standards and also for their preservation efforts of the historic landmark. "Today is an important day for one of Florida's most historic sites…The Belleview Biltmore is a fixture in this community and its preservation is crucial to our culture and historical industries. I commend Legg Mason's concern for the environment and commitment to restoring the resort in a way that will help preserve Florida's beautiful natural environment."
According to Penner, the renovations will include water efficient landscaping, utilization of energy efficient equipment and construction methods, incorporate reusable materials, and ventilation upgrades along with other enhancements to help them achieve "green" certification.
The renovations will cause the hotel to be designated by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as a "green lodging" destination. Florida's Green Lodging Program began in 2004 and establishes environmental guidelines for hotels to conserve natural resources and prevent pollution.
Crist embraced the Green Lodging Program in July at Florida's Summit for Global Climate Change when he signed Executive Order 07-126 that requires state agencies to conduct meetings and conferences at hotels participating in the program whenever possible.
Crist warmly greeted attendees gathered at the hotel for the conference before leaving to tour a green Sarasota County office complex and receive an award from Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta for his leadership in addressing global climate change through reduced carbon emissions, increased energy conservation and use of renewal energy.
Despite the work of determined preservation groups, the 110-year-old hotel was in danger of being demolished until Legg Mason purchased it, and committed to renovating, not razing it. Aside from being one of Florida's only remaining Victorian hotels, the Belleview Biltmore also has the distinction of being the largest, continually occupied wooden structure in the world still in use for its original purpose and has played hostess to several American Presidents, royalty, and celebrities.
The National Trust for Historic Preservations Southern Office's Director Hildreth commented during the press conference that the best "green" building is one that is already standing. He also announced that the Belleview Biltmore would be removed from the Trust's Registry of 11 Most Endangered Buildings, where it had previously been listed.
Later in the evening the public attended a presentation of the plans in the Hotel's Tiffany Ballroom.
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