It might look like nothing much has been going on at DeLand’s Hotel Putnam as of late, but the new owner said his plans to restore the historic building are still going ahead.
“The latest right now is that we’re cleaning up, still, from the fire and everything,” owner Mohamed Rashad said. “We’ve cleared out the entire first floor, because that was the most affected area from the fire.”
Rashad’s company, Big Bubba Investments LLC, purchased the hotel March 30, but his plans for converting it into apartments were derailed when the building caught fire April 29.
It’s still not clear what caused the blaze, which required the assistance of units from several cities to extinguish, and is being considered suspicious.
DeLand Fire Chief Daniel Hanes said state fire officials have yet to wrap up their investigation.
“I spoke with the lead investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s office last week,” Hanes said. “He said at that time, there was no new information and it was still very much under investigation.
Rashad said his insurance carrier is also still conducting an investigation into the inferno. In the meantime, he’s in a holding pattern.
“There is an insurance claim from the fire and, basically, the insurance company doesn’t want me to start anything remodeling-wise,” he said.
In the meantime, to discourage unwanted guests, Rashad said he has a couple of workers stationed there throughout the week.
“The guys that I have over there, they’re just kind of manning the property and doing a little bit of work,” he said. “We have kids over there every day. They’re on Instagram taking pictures inside the hotel.”
Meanwhile, the city is preparing to seek proposals from developers to redevelop the Old Volusia County Jail site, just a block east of the Putnam, at 130 W. New York Ave.
The prospect of another residential or mixed-use project close to the hotel doesn’t alarm Rashad.
“The more, the merrier. I don’t think it’s more of a competition,” he said. “I think more development in the Downtown area will be more beneficial here, whether you’re an investor or a resident.”
Opened in 1923 and billed as “fireproof,” the Hotel Putnam replaced the wooden Putnam Inn, which burned down in 1921.
Some wooden additions were made to the structure in later years, and those areas appear to have taken the brunt of the fire damage in April.