Thompson Miami Beach marks grand opening

Miami Herald Staff

The 380-room Thompson Miami Beach, which opened to the public Friday, has plenty of beds to welcome guests from around the world. But hotel executives say they are taking special care to attract loyalists much closer to home.

That explains the restaurant, Seagrape, from Miami chef Michelle Bernstein; the landscaping by local firm Raymond Jungles; the branch of Wynwood salon Junior & Hatter and — especially — the parking.

Locals who visit the beachfront hotel at 4041 Collins Ave. will pay $5 to valet, a fraction of what most Miami Beach establishments charge.

“We want to make sure the local people can feel comfortable,” said Nicola Siervo, a founder and managing partner of KNR Hospitality Group, which is consulting on the food and beverage programs. “If you go to a city, they have a huge local following, you know that that’s a good place to be.”

The sprawling hotel, formerly the Crown at Miami Beach apartments, is made up of three connected towers completed in 1940, 1955 and 2007. Geolo Capital, which owns Commune Hotels & Resorts — a hotel management company whose brands include Thompson, Tommie and Joie de Vivre — acquired the complex in late 2012 for $100 million.

John Pritzker, founding partner and director of Geolo Capital, said customers across the hotel company’s system were asking for a location in the Miami area, which he called “as hot a market as New York City.”

“If you want to be a credible brand, you have to be in Miami Beach,” he said. “So when the opportunity came up, we jumped on it.”

The company spent about $82 million on a massive renovation that transformed full apartments to hotel rooms. Introductory rates start at $349 a night. The interior design, by Martin Brudnizki, mixes mid-century glamor with Florida influences.

The resort includes a 1930s house that once sat across the street. It was relocated to the hotel’s back area and now serves as a bar with small-plate dishes called the 1930s House. Another bar, the Crown Room, has walls lined with books and antiques and bold orange chandeliers.

Bernstein, a James Beard Award winner, called Seagrape a “Floridian-brasserie” that will focus on regional influences, bold flavors and local fish and vegetables.

“It really speaks to who we are and where we are located,” she said in an email.

Area managing director Brett Orlando said the property’s location will allow guests to easily spend time in South Beach but return to a calmer, “sophisticated” setting.

“You’re not going to see the raging pool parties,” Orlando said.

Max Comess, a director in the hotel group at commercial real estate investment banking firm HFF, said the opening of a new high-interest hotel in that location shows how the market has shifted north.

“It shows investors’ willingness to move into what were secondary locations 10 years ago that are now being transformed into very upscale options,” he said.

Pritzker said he has noticed the change just in the couple years since buying the former Crown apartments.

“Even two years ago at 40th and Collins, it wasn’t an outlier, but it wasn’t smack in the middle of the action,” he said. “But now everything is moving our way. At some point not long from now, we will be smack in the middle of the action.”