Celino Hotel in Miami Beach Nears Opening

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Celino Hotel in Miami Beach Nears Opening:

Major undertaking included restoring three buildings, adding a fourth

One of the most highly anticipated openings in Miami Beach is the Celino Hotel which is expected to come online in the first quarter of the new year. It is an ambitious project for owner Ricardo Tabet involving restoration of three historic buildings – the Park Central Hotel, Heathcote Apartments, and Imperial Hotel – and new construction of a fourth in the 600 block of Ocean Drive.
Tabet spoke with RE:MiamiBeach about what it took to get here.

He acquired the properties in 2013, paying “close to $50 million.”  All in, he says he’s spent over $100 million in soft and hard costs.
Tabet says he was attracted to Ocean Drive because of its location, history, and charm. That said, he noted, “Ocean Drive’s been, since after the downturn, has been pretty much left to rot. All the old owners haven’t done anything with the properties. It’s a little jewel that we have and so when the opportunity came to assemble this property on the street, I saw it for me as an opportunity… maybe we can become a catalyst for the rest of the street to do something with their properties.”
And that’s exactly what happened, Tabet said. “We were the first ones to come in in recent years and introduce such a large renovation. The rest of the really good owners on the street saw us doing that and a lot of the stable big owners started renovating,” some buying properties behind them to connect with their Ocean Drive properties. It created “a little renaissance that is very exciting,” he said. “It changed so much… there’s been a major change in the energy at least of the owners on the street. It’s very exciting. Today at least 40-50 percent of the properties have been renovated or are being renovated.”
Tabet is an active Board member of the Ocean Drive Association (ODA). “It’s so exciting to see, just in the recent year, the owners are so invested right now with the street, with the properties, putting together one vision for the street.” He praised ODA Executive Director Ceci Velasco and Chairman Mike Palma. “There’s been a very positive move, “ Tabet said. “We’re all trying to push forward and to reinvent the identity of Ocean Drive. We’re going through a reinvention of the identity of Ocean Drive. What do we want to be in the future.” 
This project on Ocean Drive fits in with the modus operandi of Tabet’s Optimum Development USA “to find a substantial property in an area and we take on a big project and the idea is to really make a difference in the area.”
“We always try to be part of a renaissance that is to happen in an area,” he said. “Us having such a large property on Ocean Drive has made a bigger impact… It’s a statement when people are driving by and see an entire block under renovation on Ocean Drive.”
Workers put finishing touches on the old Imperial Hotel, now part of the Celino Hotel South Beach

The restored Park Central Hotel, now part of the Celino Hotel South Beach

The new building at the Celino Hotel South Beach adjacent to the restored Heathcote Apartments

Bigger statement also meant longer timeframe. “It took longer than expected,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy but now that we’re at the finish line I walk into that property and I smile every day now… It’s a phenomenal project. You can build a new building anywhere, anytime but to build something in a location and revive a substantial building that has meant so much for the City, for the people there, and the history of Ocean Drive” is what is most gratifying for him.
Architectural Digest named the Celino to its list of “The 12 Best-Designed Hotels Opening this Year” in June 2017. The honor is one of the high points in what turned out to be a longer than expected construction process. “To be recognized on such an international platform for what we’ve done is phenomenal,” he said.
When he bought the properties, he kept them open for about two years. During that time, he “invited five architects to basically compete for the design on it,” he said. It also took almost a year and half to find the right partner to work with him “to bring back tropical class to the street” through food and beverage and entertainment offerings. He finally found Ink Entertainment out of Toronto. “Besides having a variety of really, really good restaurants and being a good operator,” Tabet developed a good relationship with CEO Charles Khabouth. “I wanted to turn this whole thing upside down and he liked the idea, the challenge.” 
Tabet said Ink understands how to put citywide events together naming the Toronto Food Festival as one of their efforts. “They’ve put together a lot of fashion events. [Khabouth’s] an art collector… We saw eye to eye. We saw what we could do with this property together.”
Putting together the construction team proved difficult as well. Tabet said they started construction during a boom in the City and it was hard to find the right general contractor and subcontractors. In the end, his team consisted of two architectural firms, an interior designer, over 11 consultants, 28 sub contractors, and three law firms. The furniture was curated from nine countries.
Another challenge proved to be the location, one of the things that attracted him in the first place. When major events would close the street, they had to stop construction. “It’s not your typical normal location in the City. It’s the busiest touristic street we have in Florida.”
Then there was hurricane season. While our area wasn’t hit, FP&L had crews responding to the Panhandle after Michael pushing the Celino's opening back further as crews had to prioritize restoring power to those affected by the hurricane before finishing up with other non-emergency work.
“This has not been the largest project we’ve done but it’s probably been the most intense,” he said. The project had unique challenges due to the historic structures. Tabet said the one new building on the site was easier from a construction standpoint though he pointed out that it could have had 40-some units. Instead, they decided to do only 12 suites and create an atrium in the middle. “We really wanted to have a signature building” on the only property left for development on Ocean Drive. As it was going to be “the last built… we wanted a significant building that would stay there for a long time.” One of its features is a glass bottom rooftop pool. “When you look up, you see people swimming there,” he said. “It brings the energy, the water, the light, creates that really strong good vibe on the inside of the building.”
He said he’s also “extremely proud of the renovation that we’ve done to the historic buildings. Every inch of the buildings has been paid attention to. I think once we open, those buildings are going to be very special.”
Despite the challenges, it’s all worth it now. “Everything that we’re doing is getting attention,” Tabet said. “We just got admitted on the platform “Small Luxury Hotels of the World” which is very prestigious. Only four hotels in Florida are admitted on that platform, the Betsy is one.” The Betsy is located at 1440 Ocean Drive, placing two luxury hotels as the bookends of the Ocean Drive entertainment district.
“It’s great. Our street having two hotels on that platform is something really, really special,” he said. “Good things are happening on Ocean Drive.
Supply and demand will dictate the rates but Tabet said he expects rooms to run “north of $350 and our suites to be north of $800 a night.” For more information on reservations and rates, visit www.thecelinohotel.com.
Rendering (top): S4Architecture

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