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Miami Beach up to Bal Harbour

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Post news articles and general information here about Miami Beach and the other waterfront communities of Miami-Dade County. This thread covers the island communities from South Pointe in Miami Beach up to Bal Harbour, at the Haulover Inlet, (near 10700 block of Collins Avenue).

Communities covered:

Miami Beach

North Bay Village

Key Biscayne

Bal Harbour

Bay Harbor Islands

Fisher Island


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The soon-to-open Hotel Victor will have everything cool on South Beach: chilly vodka bar, coed sauna -- even a 'vibe' manager. (Shhh, it's a Hyatt.)


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Hyatt has hired a vibe manager, put a DJ in the dining room, stocked the lobby aquarium with iridescent jellyfish and done just about everything possible to create an ultra-hip hotel in South Beach.

That includes keeping its name off the place.

When the Hotel Victor opens on Ocean Drive later this month, it will be the first Hyatt property not to bear the company name or logo -- anywhere.

''You can see why we're totally deemphasizing Hyatt,'' said Hyatt Vice President Victor Lopez during a recent tour through the Hotel Victor, where guests will see an ice-topped vodka bar when they walk through the lobby. ``If you say I'm going to the Hyatt South Beach, their perception of what they're going to get is totally different from this.''

Hyatt's unusual anti-branding exercise highlights a common anxiety on South Beach: fitting in.


The masses regularly fret over wearing the right pants to get past a doorman. International hotel operators like Hyatt also worry about their cool quotients in one of the country's trendiest vacation destinations.

Ritz-Carlton's South Beach property is the only one in the luxury chain with a disc jockey on the payroll. At the Royal Palm, the new owners plan to swap the current corporate-friendly Crowne Plaza flag for Hard Rock Hotels to reflect South Beach's party-time atmosphere.

And in a destination with one of the country's most famous collection of ''boutique'' hotels -- the term for independent, stylized hotels popularized by Delano owner Ian Schrager -- individuality can trump name recognition.

''A branded boutique hotel is almost like an oxymoron,'' said Douglas Carrillo, head of marketing for Tecton Hospitality, a Miami-based hotel management company.

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts is the first major hotel chain to leave its brand behind for its South Beach debut, industry experts said. The pledge helped Hyatt win the contract to run the 91-room Victor for its owner, Zom, an Orlando-based developer.

Zom Chief Executive Steven Patterson wanted the renovated 1937 hotel to compete with the Tides, Delano and South Beach's other top boutiques. Patterson said he was skeptical a large chain like Hyatt was up to the task.

But he said Hyatt Chairman Nicholas Pritzker lobbied hard for the contract, promising a hotel with Hyatt's management controls and profit targets but still stylish enough to justify top-tier rates on South Beach. Rooms run about $479 per night.


Purple and green daybeds designed by French decorator Jacques Garcia dominate the lobby, where the iced vodka bar takes the place of the old reservations desk. The glowing jellyfish tank serves as the main theme, with beaded tentacle tassels appearing on lamps and furniture throughout the building.

Vibe Manager Victoria Prado will supervise the rotation of scented oils wafting through the common areas and the set lists created by the hotel's ''resident'' disc jockeys.

A private elevator cordoned off by curtains will have access to the penthouse suite and the second-floor VIP area, designed with celebrities in mind.

$1,500 CIGARS

Guests will choose from pillow menus, bath menus and a cigar menu with pre-embargo Cuban cigars selling for $1,500 a piece. The 6,000-square-foot basement spa includes a coed steam room, with only tile pillars for privacy.

''It's all about being a lifestyle hotel,'' said General Manager Ilan Segal, the 31-year-old former Tides executive that Hyatt hired to open the Victor.

Lopez, the Hyatt executive, said the company suspended most of its protocols for the Victor.

Victor staff will wear lapel pins instead of name tags; the Victor website doesn't tout Hyatt promotions; and Victor chefs aren't bound by corporate menu standards or vendor rules.

Still, not everyone is convinced a Hyatt hotel can do cool well enough for South Beach.

''I think it's difficult to have a boutique feel when you're getting direction from corporate,'' said Lindsey Harris, general manager of the 137-room Catalina Hotel on Collins Avenue.

``The idea of a boutique [is] it's more personal.''

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A follow-up to this article

Posted on Wed, Jan. 12, 2005

Miami Beach gives coral rock house one more chance


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A historic yet structurally deteriorated coral rock house in the heart of Miami Beach's historic district received a final chance to be saved when city commissioners on Wednesday agreed to spend $75,000 to have an engineer study and test the structure to finally determine if it can be saved.

''This is a building that has been there -- before the city was even created,'' said Mayor David Dermer. ``We have to give it a shot especially in the world of historic preservation where some very unique things can be done to save a building.''

Two of the seven commissioners, Jose Smith and Luis Garcia, disagreed with the decision, saying it was an exercise in futility because several engineering experts have already agreed that the structure would prove difficult to preserve.

The privately owned building at 900 Collins Ave., has been at the center of a debate that has pitted a private developer, the city's building official and the city's preservation community against each other.

In August, the building official declared the structure unsafe, triggering an outcry from preservationists.

In November, the Miami-Dade Unsafe Structures Board gave the city a 30-day reprieve from a demolition order to attempt to find a way to save the home. Then at its Dec. 15 meeting, the board gave the city an additional 30 days.

City officials will go to the Jan. 19 meeting and present the plan approved by commission, and the board will either grant more time or issue a demolition order.

Carter McDowell, the attorney representing the building's owner Ivor Rose, told the commissioners that the city has unfairly held his client in limbo for months even though he has been willing to build a replica of the structure.

Commissioner Saul Gross said he believes Rose bought the structure knowing full well he had no intention of preserving it. He insisted that the study should be done.

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Posted on Wed, Jan. 19, 2005


Aging Sonesta hotel to be rebuilt

Finding itself not spiffy enough to compete for South Florida's increasingly discriminating tourists, the Sonesta Beach Resort will be demolished and rebuilt as a five-star property.


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Struggling with an aging property and glitzier competition, the 36-year-old Sonesta Beach Resort on Key Biscayne will be torn down and replaced with a hotel charging five-star rates, owner Sonesta International Hotels announced Tuesday.

The $300 million development project will be financed by advanced sales of the rooms as condo-hotel units, a strategy fueling much of the expansion of South Florida's hotel stock. Miami-based developer Fortune International will contribute $60 million to join Sonesta in building the hotel, slated to open in 2008 after two years of construction.

The 294-room oceanfront Sonesta has lost money since the 2001 terrorist attacks battered South Florida's tourism industry, just as a new crop of luxury hotels opened in the Miami area and peeled away the Sonesta's big-spending guests.

With a new Ritz-Carlton three minutes away and a Four Seasons across the Rickenbacker Causeway on Brickell Avenue, Sonesta decided it couldn't compete without the spacious rooms and modern amenities that come with building a hotel from scratch, company Chairman Roger Sonnabend said.

''The Ritz is clearly superior to us. Their rooms are larger, their bathrooms are new,'' he said of the 402-room Ritz-Carlton that opened less than a mile away in 2001. ``In 1969, we were tops. But a hotel of this age [can't compete] with the Ritz, the Four Seasons.''


The hotel will stay open until its demolition slated for the second half of 2006. The venture promises to add another contender to Miami-Dade County's increasingly crowded collection of ultra-luxury hotels, a category created in 2000 when the Mandarin Oriental opened on Miami's Brickell Key.

And it comes as other aging South Florida icons to vacations past are being gutted or demolished in pursuit of more affluent hotel guests.

Fort Lauderdale's Yankee Clipper of Where the Boys Are fame is pursuing a $35 million to $50 million facelift, and wrecking balls are supposed to be bashing in part of the former Americana Hotel (now the Sheraton Bal Harbour) as part of a major upgrade. Downtown Miami's Dupont Plaza hotel is in rubble to make way for a planned luxury hotel and condominium tower, and a Holiday Inn at 22 Street in Miami Beach will be demolished to make way for a swanky W resort.

The Sonesta Beach Resort underwent significant renovations after Hurricane Andrew battered Key Biscayne in 1992, forcing the hotel to close for 13 months. But the property still seemed dated at the start of the decade, and Sonesta spent $11 million on renovations in 2000 for a new spa, bathroom upgrades and lobby improvements.

''We've spent a great deal of money on this hotel in the last few years and always intended to keep the hotel in outstanding condition to be able to compete effectively with other hotels,'' Sonnabend said.


Prime oceanfront in a lush and exclusive island setting wasn't enough to overcome a declining economy and the rise of rate discounts brought by online travel agencies like and Orbitz, he said.

The publicly traded company has posted losses each year since 2001 in the midst of an industrywide downturn. Though 2003 saw Sonesta's Key Biscayne resort post $26 million in revenue, Sonnabend said it lost money every year since 2001.

''After 9/11, it became a very serious situation,'' he said.

Sonesta used its Key Biscayne property to secure a $30 million loan in 2000 to fund new hotel ventures, including ones in Coconut Grove and Sunny Isles Beach. The Boston-based company negotiated a new loan structure in 2003 to delay interest payments, at a time when Sonnabend said its Key Biscayne and Cambridge, Mass., hotel were struggling with anemic rates and occupancy levels.

Sonesta will not contribute cash in the Key Biscayne condo-hotel venture, only the 11-acre site at 350 Ocean Dr.

Fortune will pay $30 million upfront and assume responsibility for the Key Biscayne hotel's $30 million mortgage, Sonnabend said. He said selling the planned 350 condo-hotel units will generate more than $650 million in revenue. The project should cost about $300 million to develop, he said, not counting the value of Sonesta's land.

Fortune and Sonesta will be equal partners in the real estate venture, while Sonesta will own a 70 percent stake in the new hotel, he said. Fortune will own the other 30 percent.


As recently as last month, Sonnabend said, Sonesta had planned a much more modest venture: a condominium complex on top of where some tennis courts now stand. But that plan was abandoned in talks with Fortune over the condo-hotel option.

'I said, `You have the best land in Miami,' '' said Fortune President Edgardo Defortuna. ' `You have the opportunity to a do lot more than a few dozen condos on the tennis courts.' ''

Zoning law would allow a 15-story building to replace the current seven-story structure, Defortuna said. Sonesta and Fortune have not drawn up plans for the new hotel, and Key Biscayne would need to approve the new design, he said.

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Some South Beach pics featuring buildings with decorative lighting...

MacLee Express -- it's a local startup that competes with Kinko's:


Parking garage with retail stores; the garage is covered by this animated lighting scheme:












Fifth Street and Washington Avenue:



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Posted on Thu, Jan. 20, 2005

Turnberry to buy Fontainebleau hotel


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Turnberry Associates will buy the Fontainebleau hotel on Miami Beach, ending owner Stephen Muss' three decades at the iconic resort, the developer announced Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Turnberry head Jeffrey Soffer said the Aventura-based developer plans $150 million in renovations to the 1954 building. Designed by Morris Lapidus, the 920-room hotel is showing its age, hurting the Fontainebleau's efforts to charge top rates.

The deal marks Turnberry had been Muss' partner in a major upgrade of the Fontainebleau, building a 36-story condo-hotel tower next door with a third tower on the way. Turnberry head Jeffrey Soffer said he does not plan to convert any of the rooms in the old buildings into condo-hotel units.

Soffer said he plans on boosting the Fontainebleau's rates and occupancy by bringing in new restaurant operators, night-time entertainment and jazzing up the bar scene, possibly with a club.

''I want to make it a Vegas-style hotel,'' Soffer said this morning.

The deal, set to close in March, means the end of Muss' tenure at the head of the Fontainebleau. Though the hotel thrived in the 1950s and '60s as a symbol of the Rat-Pack glamour of good times that defined Miami Beach in the postwar era, it fell into hard times with the rest of the tourist market in the 1970s.

''We felt it was time to bring in a more aggressive organization that was really on the cutting edge,'' Muss said.

He bought it out of bankruptcy in 1978 and renovated it. The Fontainebleau's revival is credited with helping spark Miami Beach's rebirth as a popular vacation destination.

Muss, 76, lives at the hotel, and his daughter, Melanie, is a senior executive there. Soffer said Muss is selling his full stake in the hotel, and Melanie Muss will remain as an executive.

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funny that Vegas was based in part by Miami Beach hotels like the Fontainebleau, and now they want to change it to a Vegas type hotel...

interesting shots Tivo. It's been too long since I've been to the Beach at night. That's all new since I've been there last.

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those were some great pics tivo...I love those 5th ave makes a great entrance to the City of Miami Beach at night, with the neon lights and the vibrancy of people in the streets all dressed up for a night out on the town...Great!

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funny that Vegas was based in part by Miami Beach hotels like the Fontainebleau, and now they want to change it to a Vegas type hotel...

funny you should mention that... on top of that, Turnberry is building Miami Beach-style high rise condos in Las Vegas...

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Posted on Thu, Jan. 20, 2005


Waterfront parcel to be auctioned Feb. 18

The city will auction off a piece of waterfront property next month, with proceeds to help pay for renovation of the Normandy Shores Golf Course.


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Miami Beach has scheduled the auction of a piece of city-owned waterfront property in Normandy Shores.

Voters approved the sale of the 30-acre lot, located at 2620 Biarritz Dr., in a referendum in March.

Proceeds from the sale, to take place Feb. 18, will help pay for the approximately $4 million renovation of the Normandy Shores Golf Course. The renovation, which will take a year to complete, is now in the planning phase.

''I think there's going to be a feeding frenzy for this property, and I think it's going to call attention to the fact that this is the last reasonably affordable waterfront neighborhood in the city,'' Commissioner Jose Smith said. ``Plus, it will give the city the necessary funding to complete the golf course renovation, which is probably the single-most-important project in Normandy Isle.''

The property -- and two neighboring city-owned lots -- was originally scheduled to be sold in 1990. The other two properties were sold, but the buyer for 2620 Biarritz backed out after bidding. For 15 years, it has sat vacant.

In a referendum several years ago, voters approved a measure requiring all sales of city-owned waterfront property be approved in a referendum.

According to city administrators, appraisals commissioned by the city show the property's value has increased significantly in just the last year. An April analysis pegged its price at $870,000, while a more recent appraisal valued it at $1.25 million.

The company handling the sale, Fisher Auction, has scheduled the auction to coincide with the Miami International Boat Show, which will take place Feb. 17-21.

''We thought that if people are coming into town to go ahead and buy a million dollar boat, maybe they'll need a waterfront property where they can park it,'' said Joe Damien, the asset manager for the city.

The sale is subject to final approval by the City Commission, Damien said.

Information on the property is available at, or by calling 800-331-6620.

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Construction has begun on Terra Beachside Villas townhouses at the 60th Street split of Collins Avenue and Indian Creek Drive in Miami Beach. Info.: 305-867-6669.

This is Terra...can't wait to see these is real life!!






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Posted on Sun, Jan. 23, 2005


City gets more time to save coral home

A Miami-Dade County panel gave Miami Beach an additional 30-day reprieve Wednesday to attempt to find a way to save the historic coral rock house at 900 Collins Ave.


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The historic coral rock house at 900 Collins Ave. was given a final 30-day reprieve from demolition on Wednesday.

The Miami-Dade County Unsafe Structures Board granted the time so an engineer hired by the city can attempt to produce plans for a way to save the house, which was declared unsafe by the city building official in August. This is the third extension the board has granted the city.

None of the parties fighting over the house's future, including the preservationists and city officials who desperately want to save it, appear to believe the reprieve will be sufficient.

The engineer hired by the city, Douglas Wood, said at the meeting that 30 days would not be enough time to produce a comprehensive plan to save the building.

''The timing is going to make it very difficult for Mr. Wood to prepare plans for evaluation,'' said Assistant City Attorney Gary Held, who represented Miami Beach in front of the county board. ``There is still hope for the house, but the outcome is still uncertain.''

If the city building official determines the plans drawn up by Wood aren't feasible, the board will issue a written demolition order at its next meeting. The building's owners, Ivor Rose and Michael Stern, fought the proposed extension through their attorney, Carter McDowell.

''The board did what it felt it had to do, but I don't think anyone here believes it can be shown that the building official can issue a building permit,'' McDowell said. ``The [demolition] order will issue and we will go forward.''

The coral rock house was built in 1918 and is one of the five oldest structures in the city.

A city building official deemed the house unsafe in August, saying the support walls and the house's concrete lining were crumbling. A portion of the roof later caved in, and a city engineer and engineers hired by the building's owners said it should be torn down.

In November, the county board gave an initial 30-day reprieve from a demolition order, and then granted another one in December.

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