Baptist Church demo

Heavy equipment demolished the remains of the old baptist church this week near downtown Inverness to make way for a 72-room hotel.

Construction of Inverness’ first downtown hotel is slated to begin in two months as heavy equipment does away with the last of the former Baptist church that called the location home for decades.

The property is now owned by Dr. Paresh Desai, a local urologist, hotelier, and restaurateur, who plans to build a three-story, 72-room hotel at the site to serve downtown visitors, residents working at nearby Citrus Memorial Hospital, and visitors who have family members who are patients at the hospital.

Desai told the Chronicle that the current demolition and cleanup would take another two weeks. That’s to be followed by soil sampling and other ground inspection work that is necessary before construction can be begin. That information, along with ground building plans, will be sent to the Inverness building department for approval. Once approved, construction can begin later, Desai said.

Construction will take 14 months, Desai predicted of the two-acre project between South Seminole Avenue on the west and South Pine Avenue on the east and West Grace Street on the south.

Desai said the former church was being used for storage by Citrus Memorial Hospital and had fallen into disrepair. Homeless people were also living outside in the rear of the building.

The property had been leased from the Citrus County Hospital Board by Hospital Corporation of America as part of the health care company’s lease of Citrus Memorial Hospital. HCA agreed to remove the future hotel site from the lease. Desai agreed to pay the hospital board nearly $600,000 for the property. In turn, the hospital board paid HCA nearly $600,000 to carve out the property from the lease agreement.

Hospital board members said for the past several months that a hotel in downtown Inverness was good for the community, the hospital with a fledgling residency program, and the city.  

Desai told the Chronicle that the coronavirus pandemic will not hinder construction.

“The market like ours has not really been effected (by the pandemic),” Desai said.

And as construction continues later this year and into next, “the storm of coronavirus should be over,” he said.

Desai began working on the project and offering the hospital board and HCA to buy the property nearly two years ago. While there have been discussions for years about a hotel being needed in the downtown area, Desai said he was proud that his efforts made that come to fruition.

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.