Like the Doral and a few sites near Miami International Airport, a sliver of the current action is happening on the mainland. Only a Hampton Inn has gone up in the downtown Miami or Brickell area since the JW Marriott Marquis opened in late 2010, capping a decade that saw the arrival of the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, JW Marriott, Conrad, Viceroy and Epic.
Now, the stalwart InterContinental Miami is about to wrap up a $30 million upgrade and the former Continental Bayside Hotel is undergoing a renovation that is expected to finish in early 2013, when the property at 146 Biscayne Blvd. will become the first hotel in the budget-friendly b2 brand.
But the bulk of the investment action is happening in Miami Beach, which still commands the highest room rates.
Gregory Rumpel, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in Miami, calls it “a truckload of cash” that will reinvigorate the remainingproperties in disrepair to push rates even higher when all the projects are done.
“Once we get these derelict buildings renovated and repositioned, I think it really helps the image, improves the vibe,” he said. “It creates more velocity, more activity.”
Like Menin’s Gale, many projects are resurrections of dilapidated, decades-old buildings that are historically significant. Because most of the popular areas for hotels lie within protected historic districts, any changes are subject to tough standards and approval.
“It would be a lot cheaper for developers to come in and knock down these buildings, but you can’t,” said Max Comess, a director in the hotel group at commercial real estate investment banking firm HFF. “And the trade-off is that you have some really amazing architecturally significant buildings to work with. I think that’s what makes Miami so appealing, not only to investors: It’s really like you’re staying in a museum.”
Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design, a Miami firm, is working on a handful of such projects on the beach, including the restoration and addition of new buildings at the Surf Club in Surfside, which will include a condo-hotel; the transformation of a complex of decrepit buildings into boutique hotels in the Collins Park neighborhood of Miami Beach and the Hotel Versailles in Miami Beach.
The firm’s principal, Kobi Karp, said the volume of hotel restoration projects has increased in the last couple of years.
“They are challenging, but they’re also inspirational because you get to work with a history and a story that was there before you,” he said.
Comess is marketing the Haddon Hall hotel at 1500 Collins Ave. and adjacent apartments to potential buyers. That traditional South Beach area has been on the front end of development, with renovated properties on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue including Hotel Breakwater, Dream South Beach, Room Mate Waldorf Towers, the Surfcomber and the Shelborne all coming online last year.
After a summer soft opening, the SLS at 1701 Collins Ave. holds its official grand opening event in early November, when the renovated and newly branded James Royal Palm also opens and the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach finishes a $10 million room refresh.
Many projects are still in the pipeline, including the transformation of the Continental Oceanfront South Beach Hotel at 1825 Collins Ave., which is scheduled to open next year as B South Beach.