“The market obviously went into a freefall,” he said. “At that point we really didn’t know where Miami was going to shake out. As we looked at the trajectory, we thought last year Miami was shaping up to have a nice long run — and it seems like that’s coming to fruition.”
Comess, of HFF, predicts a “wave” effect that started with reconstruction of oceanfront hotels and will move inland to properties across from the beach, then farther away from the water in Miami Beach, followed by downtown Miami, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables.
A fall newsletter from hospitality consulting firm HVS Miami suggests investors should consider looking beyond Miami-Dade to the Fort Lauderdale area, Florida Keys and West Palm Beach. While Broward has seen some investment, the volume is far less than its southern neighbor.
“Statistics show that Miami is not the only hotel market in South Florida illustrating strong performance indicators,” the HVS report says. “Investors could benefit from widening their ‘gateway city myopia.’ ”
But for those who are set on Miami-Dade, Comess said, Miami Beach could start to get too pricey.
“The premium’s obviously on the beach, and that’s the first place everyone wants to be,” he said. “But as pricing gets ridiculous on the beach and exceeds peak levels, both guests and investors will start coming inland to find more attractive deals in terms of places to stay.”
Some of the most talked-about future projects are planned for the mainland, though specifics are far from clear. Genting Group, the Malaysian company that bought the Miami Herald building for $236 million last year, had initially said it planned a 5,000-room resort complex with a casino. But after state legislators failed to approve expanded gaming, the company has said it plans to scale the project down.
Swire Properties plans to include a 265-room hotel in its $1.05 billion Brickell CitiCentre project, and developer Craig Robins has said his $312 million vision for the Design District includes a hotel.
And the market is clamoring for more select-service hotels such as Courtyard by Marriott, said Ezra Katz, chairman of real estate investment banking firm Aztec Group. In Miami-Dade, at least two Aloft hotels from Starwood are on the books for early 2013, in the Brickell area and Doral.
The Miami International Airport area also has potential for future development, Katz said.
“It’s a very healthy market, and that airport generates a lot of traffic,” he said. “You may not get rich, but you won’t get poor.”
The South Florida hospitality industry, of course, is wary of boom-and-bust cycles after recovering from the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the recent worldwide recession. Industry players say there doesn’t appear to be a bubble in the making but warn about the unexpected.
Peter Zalewski, a principal with Bal Harbour-based consultancy Condo Vultures, said added inventory could be an initial drag on occupancy and pricing. And, he pointed out, hotels are especially vulnerable to outside events.
“We’re one international incident away from the whole scene changing,” he said.
In this post-recession phase, tourism boosters and visitors alike are enjoying the progress.
Interior designer Colette Anderson, visiting from the Atlanta area recently as part of the lodging conference held at the Fontainebleau, toured the new SLS with a group and “took 100,000 pictures.”
“It’s just quite fascinating that there’s a big construction boom down here in South Beach,” she said.
The constant redevelopment helps to keep interest fresh in Miami, especially as northerners are making their winter vacation plans, said Chanize Thorpe, editor of the Condé Nast site HotelChatter.com.
“You’ve got these kind of classic hotels that are reinventing themselves,” she said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why people will continually be interested in what’s going on.”