While numerous shops and restaurants have opened along the district to cater to the gentrifying neighborhoods flanking both sides of the boulevard, only a small handful of motels have been renovated, including the New Yorker and another re-baptized Bianco. But those have proven so successful in drawing economy-minded European tourists that they’re often fully booked.
That prompted Jain, who has redeveloped other urban commercial and residential properties in Manhattan and Miami and is a partner in the Regalia luxury residential tower now nearing completion in Sunny Isles Beach, to take a hard look at the Vagabond.
The motel — designed by Robert Swartburg, architect of the famed Delano in South Beach — had been gutted by a former owner who gamely tried to restore it, saving many of its original details and finishes, including terrazzo floors and Dade County pine ceilings, before losing it to foreclosure in the crash.
She decided to take the chance after her Greenberg team persuaded her they could make the TDRs work. Because banks were not making project loans, Jain said, she raised money up front from friends and family.
Now she’s scrambling to get the Vagabond sufficiently ready for an opening Tiki Party poolside during Art Basel Miami Beach week. Work is more advanced than it seems from the outside, she said. New electrical and plumbing systems have been installed, and windows and wallboards are going in this week.
Eventually, the motel’s former office will be a casual seafood diner, and Jain hopes the Vagabond will become a gathering place for the neighborhood. For her plans to fully bear fruit, however, will require other developers to follow suit by purchasing and renovating historic motels.
That may yet happen. Greenberg’s Dougherty and Iris Escarra say other developers interested in using TDRs have approached them. and other deals are hatching.
TDRs, Sarnoff said, are “selling like hotcakes.’’