Monday, March 23, 2009

Fort Harrison Hotel $40 Million Renovation Completed

On Feb. 18, 2009, I reported the ongoing renovation work at the Fort Harrison luxury hotel in Clearwater.

Saturday night, the Church of Scientology held a reception, attended by many local bigwigs, to celebrate its reopening.

The CoS says that now that this huge project is completed, they will focus on finishing the "Super Power" building for which they are being fined $250 a day for not bringing it up to code.

Scientology church gives Clearwater's Fort Harrison Hotel a $40M makeover - St. Petersburg Times
"A 12,000-crystal chandelier for the ballroom.

The Church of Scientology is reopening its lavishly renovated Fort Harrison Hotel [...]

Now attention turns to Scientology's enormous building across the street that has sat vacant and unfinished for six years, mystifying the public.

The Flag Building, nicknamed the "Super Power" building, is a seven-story, 380,000-square-foot empty shell that encompasses a whole city block. The church gets fined $250 a day for not bringing it up to code, and the fines now total $245,000.

Numerous promises to finish the building have come and gone, but church officials insist that this time it really is next on their to-do list. [...]

Built in 1927 as Clearwater's first skyscraper, the hotel was a local focal point for decades. [...]

The church has gained greater acceptance over the last 15 years or so, to the point where many local bigwigs felt comfortable attending a reception at the hotel Saturday night. [...]

Now the redesigned lobby opens up to the third floor, where a pedestrian bridge crosses Fort Harrison Avenue to the unfinished Flag Building. [...]

The hotel has three restaurants — none of which will be open to the public, despite what the church previously said. The ballroom won't be rented out for weddings either. [...]

Construction on the Flag Building began in 1999, and it was supposed to open in 2002. Work stopped in 2003 and has been at a standstill ever since. [...]

"We look forward to them getting it complete," said Mayor Frank Hibbard.

In 2006, Clearwater started fining Scientology $250 a day for failing to bring its building up to code. When it's finally finished, the city's code enforcement board will review the fines and decide whether to forgive any.[...]

Scientology's explanation for the unfinished building: It repeatedly redesigned the interior, and it embarked on an international building spree. Recently in Clearwater, it has chosen to work on the Oak Cove and Fort Harrison hotels instead. [...]

The building is nicknamed "Super Power" because it will be the only place in the world where a highly classified Scientology program called Super Power will be offered. Its upper floors will house special equipment that church officials say is designed to heighten one's perceptions. [...]

The Fort Harrison Hotel's renovation will increase Scientology's property tax bill. Two-thirds of the church's property in Clearwater is tax-exempt because it's used for religious purposes, but Scientology's hotels and restaurants are taxed. Last year Scientology was charged nearly $800,000 in taxes on nearly $108 million worth of Pinellas County property. [...]'

Nashville New Building to Be Ready before Summer

On June 29, 2008, I reported on the Church of Scientology Religious Trust having bought the Fall School Business Center on 8th Avenue in Nashville, with the comment from the reporter that "Haynes says it was very important that the historic building be well preserved by its new owners, and looking at other historic buildings purchased by the Church of Scientology around the country, he was convinced there buildings character would remain intact."

On Feb. 17, 2009 I reported about Shallownimous spending their Valentine day in inept protests about the opening of this new location, with the comment from the reporter that "Whatever the Scientologists are up to in there, at least they aren’t the ones standing on street corners, wearing creepy masks and offering cake to strangers."

The article below points to the fact that renovations are under way and opening is expected before summer. However, it also says it will be a "celebrity centre" and not an "ideal org" pointing to the possibility that the CoS may retain it's current building even after the renovation are completed.

The article also mentions criticism from one Todd Lake, who works for a Christian university, and the response by the CoS' representative.

Scientology grows with new center | | The Tennessean
"The Church of Scientology is expanding in Nashville, opening what the religion calls a "celebrity centre" at the historic Fall School Business Center on 8th Avenue South and Chestnut Street.

Renovations are under way at the 36,000 square-foot building, with an opening expected before summer" [...]

""It's not worse because it's Scientology, or better because it's Christian," she said. "Who is to say who is better or who's not? The point with the money is what is being done with it. We reinvest in our community."" [...]

Related blog entries: -NashvilleOrg-