A slice of South Beach is coming to Fort Lauderdale.
Developers have announced plans to build the Gale Boutique Hotel & Residences, a 96-room hotel and neighboring 128-unit condo building, on a parcel of land near the Intracoastal between Las Olas and Sunrise boulevards.
Construction on the roughly $120 million project is expected to start late this summer, with the hotel and condo slated to debut by the first quarter of 2017. The original Gale Hotel, which fuses vintage and modern styles, is on an active stretch of Collins Avenue in South Beach.
“I think that this fine South Beach boutique is just following the common wisdom: This is the place to be,” said Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Now that that’s going to be joining our inventory, we can appeal to an even broader number of tourists.”
Newgard Development Group and Merrimac Ventures are developing the project with Menin Hospitality, whose portfolio includes hotels in South Beach and Chicago as well as several restaurants and bars. The hospitality company, which will manage the Fort Lauderdale hotel and its food and beverage outlets, opened the 87-room Gale South Beach in December of 2012.
Dev Motwani, president of Merrimac Ventures, acquired the 2.5-acre site at 2900 Riomar St. in 2010 without knowing exactly what it would become. An early plan called for only condos on the site, but Motwani — who lived in hotels that his family owned on Fort Lauderdale beach in the 1980s — realized he wanted to keep the former Escape Hotel as a hotel.
“I looked at it and felt like converting the existing building to condos was a lost opportunity to celebrate a little of my neighborhood in my youth,” he said.
He approached Harvey Hernandez, founder and CEO of Newgard Development Group, who said he took “a good 14 months” to sign on.
“I think our vision is something that Fort Lauderdale beach is now ready for,” Hernandez said.
That vision includes a 12-story condo building with 128 one-, two- and three-bedroom units next to the renovated hotel. Prices for residences, which range from 780 to almost 2,000 square feet, start at $385,000. The property will also feature a rooftop sky deck, fitness center, spa and multiple pools as well as retail and dining outlets. Condo owners will have the option of including their units in the hotel rental pool.
“We feel the demand for nicer products in terms of condos, nicer hotel rooms and experience to the guest and a nicer food and beverage product is what Fort lauderdale’s craving and what they need,” said Jared Galbut, managing principal of Menin Hospitality. He said the company is hoping to have even more of a presence in the area in the future.
“We’re very high on Fort Lauderdale now,” Galbut said. “We think it’s … the next up-and-coming market in the South Florida region. It has gone through its growth in recent years.”
The announcement comes amid revived interest and investment in Fort Lauderdale and Broward County more broadly. The long-awaited south runway opened at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in September, opening the door for more domestic and international service.
And as the cost of real estate and hotel rooms in Miami increases, industry observers say the relatively affordable destination to the north has benefited from vacationers seeking a more laid-back and budget-friendly beach alternative.
“Miami’s gotten so expensive that you’ve got potential guests going to Fort Lauderdale because they want to be in South Florida but they don’t have something they can afford in Miami,” said hotel consultant Scott Brush, who is based in Miami. “As guests move, so do the developers.”
Another Fort Lauderdale hotel, once intended to become the Trump International Hotel and Tower, will open later this year as the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Residences after more than $30 million in upgrades. Motwani’s brother Nitin Motwani and partners are developing the Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach, and their family’s Merrimac Ventures has other projects in the works as well on the beach.
Several sources said Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is planning to enter the Fort Lauderdale market, but a spokesman said the Canadian luxury hotel company had “nothing to share regarding any plans for a new project in Florida.”
Grossman said more than 1,000 new hotel rooms are entering the market over the next two years, including the 349-room Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort and the Conrad.
“We welcome them all with the widest open arms you can imagine,” she said. “Because the more choices our visitors have, the more visitors we’re going to have.”