Urbanica Commits Big to Miami Beach

South of Fifth

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Urbanica Commits Big to Miami Beach:

Fourth hotel in the works

Charlie Porchetto and Diego Colmenero have been coming to Miami Beach since they were children. Now the co-founders of Urbanica Hotels are building a successful brand for travelers by being part of the neighborhood. In addition to the 70 rooms at their first boutique hotel – The Meridian – a coffee shop and bar attract guests as well as locals. It is stylish, casual, comfortable, and authentic. Literally, it is a place where everybody knows your name.
On the day this reporter was there for a tour, one couple checking out hugged staff members goodbye. Others passing in the hallway spoke with the general manager who called them by name. Many are repeat visitors.

Building on that success, Porchetto and Colmenero are working on opening three more hotels here. Two are within blocks of The Meridian located at 413 Meridian. The Sofi Hotel, which will have 30 rooms, is now under construction at 426 Euclid. The future 32-room Fifth Hotel will be located on the corner of Fifth and Meridian. 
This month, the Historic Preservation Board approved Urbanica’s proposal to run the Kaskades Hotel at 300 17th Street as an independent operation. Currently the Kaskades is part of The Gale/Regent Hotel where guests check in before heading to their rooms. Urbanica will add a glass lobby onto the James Avenue side of the building which will include a front desk and hotel/neighborhood café.
Porchetto and Colmenero decribed their attraction to Miami Beach. “It is the first city for American travelers” from Latin America, Colmenero said.
“It’s the entrance for the States," echoed Porchetto. "We’ve been coming here since we were children.”
The Latin culture here made Miami Beach “a natural place to land in the US,” Colmenero added. “It was easy for us to participate in how the City looks.”
They are quietly putting their stamp on the City near one of its gateways, the MacArthur Causeway. 
Originally developers of residential and commercial real estate in Argentina, the duo expanded into the hospitality business in 2005 with the opening of The Suites Hotel in Buenos Aires. They later added a second hotel, The Libertador. 
Their first foray into the United States was with The Meridian Hotel which opened in mid-2016. After travelling back and forth frequently and purchasing the property in 2013, Porchetto said the two had to make a decision on where to hang their hats. Both moved here five years ago, Porchetto to Miami Beach and Colmenero nearby in Miami. The corporate office remains in Buenos Aires.
Their construction background is “why we develop from scratch,” Colmenero said. “We have that DNA. We had a vision how to develop [The Meridian] because we like being in construction. It came out to be a really nice property.” The Meridian blends an older historic building with a new addition.
Colmenero said, “Since October of the year we opened, we’ve been number one on Trip Advisor. We never thought that could happen and the success this property was going to have.”
As a result, he said, “We felt we had more things to do here in Miami Beach.”
L to R: Charlie Porchetto, Sexton Garcia, Diego Colmenero in the lobby of The Meridian Hotel
Despite a difficult first year that included Zika, Irma, and the Miami Beach Convention Center being under construction, Porchetto said the hotel had “a good year. The first position on Trip Advisor helped. That’s a very powerful tool for travelers.”
The Meridian’s General Manager Sexton Garcia says Urbanica’s target demographic is young couples, ages 30-55. Room rates average $170-180, depending on season. Larger rooms run higher. 
Porchetto says occupancy is steady at around 90%. “That’s why we’re building a new hotel,” he said. “We have the right product for our guests.”
“People love the property, love our service,” he added. “We treat the guests as we would friends or family.”
Garcia said, “It’s like a big B&B but less invasive. When they walk away they feel they’re really part of something… like they belong. We have a lot of repeat guests.”
The hotel also belongs to the neighborhood. The café serves “the best local products of Miami” according to Garcia including bread from Zak the Baker and Panther coffee.
“It’s a place where you can feel like a local because everything is local,” Garcia said. “We invite our locals in.” 
minibar at The Meridian
A few months ago, a new bar opened at the hotel. It’s a cozy space appropriately called minibar, again designed to appeal to guests and local residents. (It features paper straws. Talk about knowing your audience.)
Porchetto said, “We’re not on Collins or Ocean Drive. We are here in South of Fifth. If you want to be here, you have to be part of the neighborhood.”

Kaskades Rendering, courtesy McG Architecture

The Kaskades project diverges from the Urbanica model of building from scratch but it continues the neighborhood vibe.
“This is like a new venture for us trying to manage a project that we didn’t build,” Porchetto said. “It’s not our main core business but we like what we are doing. It’s a small property. It’s very easy to manage for us.”
The Kaskades, a 1952 Post War Modern style building designed by Melvin Grossman, was renovated in 2013. “It’s a great redevelopment they’ve done there,” Colmenero said. “It’s a beautiful property.” 
“Kaskades is different but it’s a neighborhood at the end,” Porchetto added. “Our locals are really similar to the neighbors that we have here on South Beach.”
Garcia says the entrance on James Avenue gives the Kaskades “more of a neighborhood feel.”
“We are adding a small lobby to just bring that local life that we’re trying to achieve with our hotels, adding a coffee shop for locals,” Colmenero said. The glass lobby addition will be approximately 600 sq. ft. and include a green roof. The hotel has 25 rooms.
“We can choose what we do,” Colmenero said. “We only choose properties that relate to our brand. Miami Beach is a special market because you don’t get to build large hotels from what’s already been built.”
They’re also expanding beyond the Beach, building a bigger hotel with 120 rooms on Biscayne Boulevard. Porchetto said, “The challenge in the new project is maintaining the boutique service.”
“We have a lot on the table,” he said, adding that they are under contract on “a big building in Chicago, almost 350 rooms. Great location, close to Magnificent Mile.”
Meanwhile, they have plenty to keep them busy here. Urbanica broke ground on the Euclid Avenue property last week which is expected to be open in about a year. The hotel planned for Fifth Street was approved by the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board in December. Plans are expected to be submitted to the City within the next two weeks.

The Meridian Hotel photos courtesy Urbanica

Lobby café at The Meridian
Pool at Urbanica's The Meridian Hotel
Guest lounge
Guest room

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