Passersby paused to take in a bittersweet moment as a wrecking ball swung into Coconut Groves iconic Grand Bay Hotel on Tuesday, clearing ground for a pair of twisting glass condo towers.
Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has designed the $400 million project being developed by the Terra Group.
Construction is slated to begin this spring, with a project opening date of 2014.
Tony Tremols, a Coconut Grove resident since 1984, recalled the hotels better days while watching the demolition.
It was a beautiful hotel very, very active, he said. It was a landmark. Caught in a foreclosure mess, the hotel sat empty for the past few years, deteriorating into an eyesore.
In its heyday, the 200-room Grand Bay at 2669 S. Bayshore Dr. was the only hotel south of Palm Beach to earn the coveted Mobil five-star rating.
The hotel opened in 1983 in an area transitioning from artsy-hippie enclave and cocaine-cowboy hangout to major tourist destination. It was hailed for its pyramid shape, perfect service and Regines nightclub, which drew the jet-set crowd.
Julian Fernandez, who works nearby, said he has high hopes for the post-Grand Bay site.
Theres a lot of history there, but it has been abandoned for so long, he said, calling the demolition bittersweet.
Not everyone is pleased with the condo project. Alfredo Guzman, who passed by while making a delivery for his Wynwood art gallery, said he wished the hotel did not have to be demolished.
I dont agree, but what can I do? he asked while watching the wrecking ball. I dont believe in destroying to build all the time. It never stops.