Update, Sept. 6:
The DeLand Historic Preservation Board discussed the next step for the Putnam Hotel at its Sept. 2 meeting, with an emphasis on ensuring the historic exterior look is preserved.
That shouldn’t be a problem, according to Frantz Ostmann, who works with a construction firm and represented the Putnam’s prospective new owners, Axia.
Axia is expected to close this month on a purchase of the hotel from its current owner, Mohamed Rashad.
Ostmann said his team has done “extensive research” on the history of the building. The exterior shown on the initial sketch presented to the Historic Preservation Board, he said, is not the final plan, just a preliminary sketch.
The goal for the lobby of the hotel, Ostmann said, is for people to feel like they are “walking through history” when they enter.
“As you walk through the building and walk through the history of the building and the research that we’ve done, it’s very easy to get drawn into what that building can become,” he said. “Hopefully as much of what it used to be as possible.”
The problem, which Ostmann and city officials hinted at, is that while it’s easy to get caught up in the “romance” of the Hotel Putnam’s story, the cost of an exact historic restoration has to be balanced with the need to meet modern building codes. One example is the need to construct four fireproof stairway exits that the original building didn’t have.
The board balked at the suggestion that the new owners would need to demolish two existing one-story structures in the front that protrude 16 feet from either side of the five-story Putnam structure, to make more room for parking.
The Historic Preservation Board’s charge, Member Charles Jordan said, is to assure that new construction aligns with proper standards for historic buildings. He did not believe demolishing parts of the building would fit with those standards.
The overall project, Ostmann said, would likely take two years to complete. His goal is to ensure the Putnam hotel is open for business 100 years after it first opened its doors in 1923.
— Noah Hertz and Barb Shepherd
Prospective new owners of the Hotel Putnam will share a proposed exterior design with DeLand’s Historic Preservation Board, at the board’s meeting Thursday, Sept. 2.
The buyers, Axia, have a contract with the current owner, Mohamed Rashad, and are set to close the real estate deal in September, Rashad said.
Rashad told The Beacon he decided to sell the historic property, which he has owned since 2018, when it became apparent that he could make no headway in working with City of DeLand development officials to restore the hotel.
During his years of ownership, Rashad mostly gutted the building, removing the old plumbing and wiring, for example, as well as non-structural walls. He also removed additions to the exterior.
“I brought the building to the way it actually looked in 1921 when it was built,” Rashad said.
Rashad and DeLand city government have long been at odds over how to approach fixing up the historic hotel, and the city said he did much of the work without permits.
Concept plans for the new Putnam Hotel were drawn up by architect Silver Sea Homes and shared to the Historic Preservation Board ahead of its Sept. 2 meeting.
The exterior design features modern-looking balconies overlooking New York Avenue from the rooms on the front, and four exterior stairways: two in front (on the east and west sides of the courtyard), and two in back on either side of a swimming pool.
City of DeLand Community Development Director Rick Werbiskis announced the hotel’s probable sale with excitement in communicating the news to the Historic Preservation Board Aug. 19.
“Great news to report!!” Werbiskis wrote in an email to board members, adding, “The proposed developer appears to be well capitalized and is prepared to assemble a competent construction team capable of completing the renovation work in a timely manner.”
But Rashad was not excited to turn his back on a project he had spent three years and nearly $2 million on: the $1 million purchase price and the cost of the work he did.
“I’m sad. I loved the project,” Rashad said.
The DeLand Historic Preservation Board will meet to discuss the Putnam and other topics at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2, at DeLand City Hall in the City Commission Chambers, 120 S. Florida Ave. The seven-person board meets on the first Thursday of every month.