Once the biggest and best upscale hotel in downtown Miami, the InterContinental has found itself with plenty of company in recent years.
Now, the 641-room hotel that has welcomed presidents, movie stars and sports legends over the 30 years since it opened is reinventing itself to the tune of $30 million.
“We want the InterContinental Miami to once again be the epicenter of Miami,” said general manager Robert Hill.
Already finished or to be completed by the end of the month are upgraded rooms; suites by tennis star Venus Williams’ design firm; bold lighting inside and out; improved technology and a new pan-Latin restaurant, Toro Toro, from internationally known chef Richard Sandoval.
The famous 70-ton “Spindle” sculpture by Henry Moore will stay put in the travertine marble lobby — how could it not? — but it will be bathed in lights and patterns, thanks to new technology.
Chicago-based Strategic Hotels & Resorts, which owns the property at 100 Chopin Plaza, spent about two years planning the upgrades, taking into consideration feedback from meeting planners and guests — as well as what the neighbors were doing.
“We looked at the market and said there’s been a lot of new supply, that’s great. It’s done. We know what everybody else has,” said Laurence Geller, Strategic’s president and CEO. “We tried to pioneer a scheme that would do something very different — perhaps brash, perhaps noisy. Hopefully, it will work.”
The upgrades fit in to what the brand is all about, said Gina LaBarre, InterContinental Hotels Group’s Americas vice president of brand management.
“For the InterContinental brand, it’s all about the local market,” LaBarre said. “It’s about how do we bring that in-the-know experience to the guest. If you look at the market in Miami, it is very trendy, it is very cutting edge, it’s lights and sounds.”
Geller said technology and energy were terms that popped up a lot in the planning phases; the end result will be a “digital canvas” on the building’s exterior that can light up in different colors or feature moving images, a marquee described as “Times Square-style” at the entrance and a lobby that features 18 hanging LCD screens and touchscreen coffee tables.
“We just decided that the hotel had to be marketed; it had to be its own billboard,” Geller said.
In addition to the 19-story light display, the property is drumming up some buzz with restaurateur Sandoval, whose other Toro Toro is in Dubai, and Williams’ V Starr design firm.
Williams, who first stayed at the hotel in 1997 when she played in the Lipton Championships (now the Sony Ericsson Open) in Key Biscayne, said she drew inspiration for the presidential suites from Florida’s history, including pops of orange in one of the suites as a nod to the citrus industry. Her firm also worked on six executive suites and the club lounge.
“It’s very exciting because InterContinental not only is a wonderful hotel, it’s a landmark, but also they’re so involved in the community and the arts.”
The new and improved hotel plans to tap into the local cultural scene by featuring digital art from locals in the lobby.
While rates and occupancy are both strong, Geller said the hotel wants to use the renovations to improve its market share. About 55 percent of business comes from conventions and corporate meetings, with the rest from leisure and individual business travelers.
Miami hotel consultant Scott Brush said that such a reinvention was necessary, considering the new downtown Miami lodging landscape.
“You’ve got to do something to bring it up,” he said. “And something more than just repair and replace.”