Tourism & Cruises

After a $47 million makeover, historic hotel wants to offer a ‘curated Miami experience’

The recently renovated Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club, at 3925 Collins Ave, Miami Beach.
The recently renovated Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club, at 3925 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. emichot@miamiherald.com

The historic Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club in mid-Beach is back in business after a yearlong multimillion-dollar renovation.

The 357-room Miami Beach hotel has reopened with a fresh style in the spirit of the Italian Riviera, with nautical accents, unlimited in-room espresso, and dozens of rosé options at the lobby bar. As the 163rd addition to the Marriott Autograph collection of boutique hotels, the Cadillac mixes old 1940s Miami Beach architecture with new flavors, including a new Italian restaurant, Donna Mare Trattoria.

“We took a lot of effort to preserve the beauty of this place,” said Neil Shah, the Miami-based CEO of the hotel’s operator, Hersha. “We’re going for European sensibility in style, design and service.”

The original 1940s Cadillac hotel was designed by prominent Miami Beach architect Roy France, who created more than 20 hotels and apartment buildings there. It was a time when the American middle class was making a comeback after the Great Depression and flocking to Miami Beach’s more affordable district above 23rd street for vacation. It was also a time before Cadillac (the car company) had exclusive use of its brand. (The hotel has no association, but bears the luxury auto brand’s name and crest.)

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The recently renovated Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club, at 3925 Collins Ave, Miami Beach. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

The building, at 40th Street and Collins Avenue in burgeoning mid-Beach, was a hotel until 1942, when the U.S. military used it for three years to process soldiers arriving from their World War II posts before sending them home. It returned to hotel operations from 1945 until the late 1990s, when tourism to Miami Beach slowed. Like other hotels in the area, it was shuttered for years until it was rehabilitated in 2004 and added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2005.

Shah’s company Hersha acquired the Cadillac in 2011 and built a second tower next to the original 264-room hotel for a total of 357 rooms. Then, in September 2017 the Cadillac shut down for a $47 million renovation.

“We saw the growing potential in mid-Beach and loved that the hotel is located on one full city block, a rarity in Miami Beach,” Shah said. “We fell in love with the heritage and history of the Cadillac. So many visitors vacationed at the hotel and remembered it from their parents or their youth. We knew the hotel was a gem just waiting to shine again.”

Much of the hotel’s original 1940s structure remains intact because of its historic designation. Visitors will notice many of the Cadillac’s traditional Art Deco touches, including the lobby’s original terrazzo floor. Even the final step into the hotel’s entryway, which is slightly too tall, had to stay, so guests are greeted with a “watch your step, please” from a friendly staff member.

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Hersha Hospitality Trust CEO Neil Shah sits poolside at the recently renovated Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club, at 3925 Collins Ave in Miami Beach Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com


Miami Beach preservationist Nancy Liebman, who sits on the city’s preservation board, was excited to learn about the renovation.

“I’m delighted that somebody has taken the opportunity to restore it,” she said. “The city is a well recognized tourist place to visit because of its historic hotels.”

The Cadillac’s restoration is the latest in bubbling mid-Beach. The Edition hotel opened nearby in 2014; Argentina-based Faena opened its first U.S. hotel nearby in 2015. Generator, a European brand hybrid that includes both private and dorm rooms, opened in the area this fall.

“The development in Miami Beach has been slowly moving North,” said Ivan Cukon, manager on Ernst & Young’s hospitality and real estate team. “That area is now an expansion of South Beach; the demand is there.”

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The recently renovated Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club, at 3925 Collins Ave in Miami Beach. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

Art Deco hotel renovations constituted the majority of Miami Beach hotel openings from 2015-2016, according to Ernst & Young. Since then the trend has slowed a bit, but there are still more renovations in the pipeline, including the 1940s Raleigh Hotel and the 1930s Greystone Hotel. Renovated hotels need all the usual amenities in order to compete with new hotels, Cukon said.

“They are limited with space and architecture they need to preserve, so the important part is the interior design of the rooms, strong food and beverage concepts and leisure amenities, pool and fitness,” Cukon said.

The Cadillac is meeting that call with a second, adults-only pool with private cabanas in addition to its main pool. A gate connects the Miami Beach boardwalk to the poolside restaurant called Bungalow by the Sea, which is open to the public. The hotel organizes sea plane tours to Key West and the Everglades. A Wynwood food tour is in the works, too. Unlike most of its Art Deco neighbors, the hotel doesn’t have a spa, but Shah said they offer in-room treatments.

“It’s about a curated Miami experience beyond the beach,” Shah said.

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A suite with a city-facing view at the recently renovated Cadillac Hotel and Beach Club, at 3925 Collins Ave in Miami Beach. Emily Michot emichot@miamiherald.com

The rooms, designed by New York-based Bill Rooney Studio, are fresh and white with blue, grey and gold accents. The ceilings bear white-washed, exposed beams. Photographs of 1940s beach scenes hang on the walls, along with mirrors with touch-activated lighting options. Do Not Disturb signs are controlled electronically from within rooms to indicate the guest’s status.

City-view king rooms start at around $200 per night; ocean-view king rooms, at $240. Nearly 75 percent of rooms have balconies.

Hersha also owns the Ritz-Carlton and the Residence Inn in Coconut Grove, the Winter Haven Hotel and Blue Moon Hotel in Miami Beach, the Parrot Key Hotel in Key West, the Hilton Oceanfront Resort in Daytona Beach, and the Sheraton Airport Hotel at MIA. And it will likely acquire more.

“Long term, it’s one of the highest growth areas in the world,” Shah said.

Early reviews of the Cadillac hotel’s service have been mixed. Though the hotel currently is the No. 1 rated hotel in Miami Beach on Trip Advisor, with 83 percent of 222 reviews rating it excellent, Nicky Kelvin from The Points Guy found his stay at the hotel during Art Basel disappointing. The sound of drilling right outside his door woke him up at 5:30 a.m., he said, and the linens in his suite were torn. The room service and restaurant food took an extraordinarily long time to arrive. To top it off, Beach umbrellas cost an extra $22 per day on top of the hotel’s $30 per night “resort fee.”

“We definitely missed the mark with this guest,” Shah said. “We’ve apologized and invited this guest to give us an opportunity to make it right on their next visit. During the busiest week of the year, he noted true moments for improvement. Our hotel considers the guest’s experience a top priority and will continue striving to deliver a great guest experience each and every time.”

Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.


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