Take a good look next time you drive by the seven-story Marion Sovereign building in downtown Ocala — it won’t be that way for much longer.
The 95-year-old building, at 108 N. Magnolia Ave., will be restored from office condominiums to its former glory as a boutique hotel in the coming years by local philanthropists and developers David and Lisa Midgett.
“We are so excited that they're taking on this project. They are fantastic local corporate citizens, and they've done projects like this all over the world, so to have them focusing on this project in their home is a win for all of us,” Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership President and CEO Kevin Sheilley told the Star-Banner.
“To bring back this incredible building — it's such a landmark downtown — to really make it shine again, it's fantastic,” he continued.
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In addition to restoring historic hotels around the world, the Midgetts have renovated other buildings in Ocala. Lisa is the owner of the NOMA Gallery downtown, which used to be a Coca-Cola bottling plant, and chair of the Marion Culture Alliance. David is a lawyer, investor and chairman of NOMA Records.
Together, they also have the David and Lisa Midgett Foundation.
Boutique hotel will include art, fine dining, exterior restoration
Originally reported by the Ocala Gazette last month, the 48-room hotel would have paintings and sculptures by local artists, fine dining, a coffee shop/cocktail bar, a high-end boutique and a club lounge overlooking downtown.
“I think there are people who will want to come and stay at that facility just because it'll be unique,” Sheilley said. “People are always looking for you experiences and to be able to stay in a restored (hotel), I can just imagine how beautiful the facility is going to be.”
The Marion Sovereign building was originally the 100-room Marion Hotel. At 98 feet, it was the tallest building in downtown Ocala at its construction in 1927. The Hilton Ocala, which is nine stories and around 113 feet high, was built in 1987 and is currently the tallest.
In 1980, the building was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In the 1990s, the hotel was turned into the present-day office condos under the name Ocala National Bank. In 2007, it became the Marion Sovereign Building. When complete, the Midgetts plan to return it to the Marion Hotel.
Because the building was split up into condos under 17 different owners, reuniting it under one owner has been an ongoing endeavor. The Midgetts have bought 14 of the units, and Lisa told the Star-Banner they were still negotiating with the remaining three owners and reviewing bids as of late March.
They now hold majority voting rights in the Marion Sovereign Building Condominium Association and can start work on exterior repairs this year, which are estimated at around $1 million. The whole hotel cost would be around $12 million.
Previous condo owners can lease back their units this year while the Midgetts work on the exterior, which is subject to a historic façade easement that means the character and features of the outside will be preserved.
The couple told the Gazette they estimate interior architectural design and engineering plans will take a year to develop. They will not operate the hotel, bar or restaurant once complete.
Helping revitalize Ocala as a tourism destination
“The Equestrian is amazing in and of itself obviously but a different market, and so I think they'll very much support one another,” he said.
He also says the renovation is already helping grow downtown Ocala, and the hotel, which was originally built to drive tourism, will take on that initial intent again.
“We're starting to see a lot of activity on the north side of downtown, north of (SR) 40, and this is really going to be a catalyst project for that,” Sheilley said. “I already know we've got a lot of people now looking around the area near them that want to be a part of that because they see what that's going to do. The additional people that will bring downtown, it just continues that incredible momentum that we're seeing in that area.”
Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: David and Lisa Midgett will restore Marion Sovereign Building to hotel