A number of hotel construction and renovation projects are either underway or approved for Miami Beach. Recently developer Sandor Scher of Claro Development shared his thoughts on trends in commercial construction here with the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce's Real Estate Council. Today we share his insights on hotel construction and design.
Perhaps the most interesting trend is the emphasis on hotels as a local experience – for visitors as well as the community. Scher said it’s about authenticity. “Guests relate to places that are frequented by the locals as there is a certain authenticity. The place becomes real.”
Hotels are becoming cultural centers and hubs for local culture. “Whether its music or art or food,” he said, “the trend is for the hotel to become a unique destination for all of this. People like [hotelier] Andre Balazs have been doing this better than anyone since the late 90’s / early 2000’s and we see it today with the Standard still being a unique offering.” Balazs is the former owner of the Standard Hotel, a popular local destination on Belle Isle.
Scher’s Claro Development worked with Balazs on the Raleigh Hotel at 17th and Collins in 2005 and is now back to work on its renovation for new owner Tommy Hilfiger. Like the Soho in Mid-Beach, the Raleigh will include a membership model that “will focus extensively on programming and creating reasons to use the club throughout the day and night,” Scher said. The membership model, he noted, contributes to the immersion in the local cultural experience for hotel guests who share amenities and culinary experiences with local members.
Plans for the Raleigh, a historic building, illustrate what Scher calls another interesting trend that he is seeing on multiple projects. “In [the Raleigh] project we have a very large underground amenity space that is a necessity due to the highly sensitive nature of the historic building. The basement will have multipurpose functions and serve as a late night lounge that should be one of a kind.”
Claro is also managing the development and construction of the nearby Greystone Hotel at 20th and Collins, which Scher said “is also being built to be a local destination and to be deeply immersive in the Miami Beach experience for its guests.” Its focus, however, is less on hotel rooms – the property only has 42 – and more towards food and beverage. Like the Raleigh, the Greystone will have an underground basement bar and lounge “fashioned towards the speakeasies of the twenties and early thirties.” The “activated rooftop [is] another trend that we have seen move from the exception to the norm,” Scher said.
Also moving from exception to the norm, according to Scher, is the property’s location on the west side of Collins. “In the last few years we have seen the quality and investment in properties on the west side of Collins improve by many multiples. With the new Convention Center coming online we see this changing from a trend to the norm.”
Finally, Scher spoke to the planned hotel at 955 Washington Avenue, which Claro is not working on so he talked about the opportunity, in general, for the project. “This is the first new project that will be built with small or compact hotel rooms. They are approximately 208 s.f. Smaller hotel rooms and utilizing the retail as the hotel amenity is a novel approach for Miami Beach and we think it will work great for the younger traveler.” He said the project was made possible by aggregating properties and required a change in zoning to allow for smaller rooms and limited parking. “If the regular parking requirements were in force, this project would never have been able to be designed,” he said. “Who drives to a hotel at this point? It’s a dying model to park cars for hotel guests.” With regard to the smaller rooms he said, “It’s all about not spending time in your hotel room, but being out in the community and experiencing other hotel guests in the communal spaces.”
“The trend here,” he noted, “is for the retail to be the amenity for the hotel. The hotel entrance is down the side of the retail. This is unconventional but smart! The hotel experience is so immersed in the community that it's novel. The tenant mix here will surely be community centric.”
Wrapping up, Scher said the trend in Miami Beach is all about “the cultural connection to the local environment, both to welcome in locals and to give authentic and immersive experiences to travelers.” For hoteliers, he said, “The holy grail … is getting locals to help create the environment that defines the space, finding ways for the local culture to come into your hotel organically and through programming, and for your hotel to become a cultural exporter all at the same time.”