The far western edge of Miami Beach along West Avenue and Bay Road was once home to some of the grandest hotels on the island.
Starting with Carl Fisher’s Flamingo Hotel in 1921 and followed closely by The Fleetwood Hotel in 1924 and The Floridian Hotel in 1925, well-to-do winter guests would dock their yachts behind these modern “fire-proof” hotels and spend leisurely days watching power-boat racers such as Gar Wood rip across Biscayne Bay.
Others would spend their time up in the roof-garden with its 230-foot long dance floor, listening to the Fleetwood hotel’s own radio station, WMBF (Wonderful Miami Beach Florida), while at night they would take-in Eddie Cantor’s show in the main room of The Fleetwood, then read about who else was there in Damon Runyon’s column the next day.
But, during the 1950s and 60s, the grand hotels along Miami Beach’s western shore were dismantled one-by-one, and over time the area changed into a largely residential community of eclectic apartment buildings and condominiums. And when the South Beach renaissance transformed most of lower Miami Beach into a Mecca for hip travelers, the western part of the island remained trapped in the 1960s, bypassed by the exuberant development that hit Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive.
But the winds of change are again blowing up West Avenue, and along with them comes some of the biggest names in real estate development, including, most notably, Morgans Hotel Group.
Morgans recently spent $110 million to acquire the middle tower of the Mirador, and plans to turn the space at 11th Street and West Avenue into the Mondrian South Beach Hotel Residences.
Along with the proclamation of the new hotel comes the possibility of an overall revival for West Avenue. “[Morgans Hotel Group] are pioneers for what’s happening on the Bay,” says David Goldberg, managing principle for Newmark Knight Frank, which focuses on purchasing retail space for restaurants, nightclubs and shops in places like the Grand Flamingo and the Continuum. “If anyone can make it happen, Morgans can, because they are the best of the best.”
This West Avenue destination marks the fourth Mondrian Hotel for Morgans Hotel Group, with other location in Los Angeles; Scottsdale, Arizona; and developments in Las Vegas. While the Mondrian is often described as a “sophisticated, modern, urban resort,” its South Beach venture promises to keep within in the realm of cool, offering upscale amenities such as a spa, waterfront services and private boat slips.
To produce the Mondrian South Beach, Morgans Hotel Group has partnered with condo company Hudson Capital and plans to spend $60 million to renovate the property. Each company will contribute $15 million to the project with Eurohypo AG financing $124 million to complete the development.
Although still fluid, current plans for the 16-story condo/hotel include 342 one and two-bedrooms units and four penthouse suites, with views of Biscayne Bay, the Miami Skyline, the Atlantic and South Beach. Buyers will also be able to place units into a rental program.
“It’s perfect for the young, fun, professional crowd, and it’s close to Lincoln Road. South of Fifth and north of 17th to 25th Streets are new, cool areas, but they don’t have the Bay. The Bay has its own uniqueness,” says Goldberg.
But it’s not just the hotel’s guests who can enjoy what the Mondrian South Beach is bringing to the area. Those who purchased units in the neighboring Mirador towers have a lot to look forward to as well. As Goldberg explains, “I think it will increase their value tremendously. Morgans is a top-rate operator with the highest amenities.”
A3TV co-creator and Mirador unit owner Justin “Buster” Altshuler has a positive outlook on the purchase as well. “Everyone’s talking about it. It’s going to be a great improvement to the area. And as an owner, it’s only going to help my property value,” he says. “Beside the brand itself being synonymous with the high-end scene, there will definitely be a lounge and/or dining angle to the venue, as well as a celebrity factor and events. For someone who lives in that scene, its convenient.”
The Mondrian South Beach hotel and the changes it will bring may very well transform South Beach’s sleepy West Avenue into an upscale year-round travel destination. “Look at South Beach five years ago, people came for six or seven months out of the year to party and that was it. Now you have professionals from law firms and doctors living at places like the Mirador all year round,” Goldberg says. “It’s positive for the city and, as time goes on, there will be more professional clientele.”
CeCe Feinberg, owner of fashion public relations firm CeCe Feinberg PR agrees and points out that additions like the Mondrian are a natural part of South Beach’s evolution. “I think that South Beach is an ever-evolving area that will always reinvent itself to suit the needs of our community and our economy. South Beach is growing in many ways, not the least of which is just the surge in population. The addition of The Standard, The W and other similar properties is an indication that there is a demand and, therefore, many more options for those who prefer a sophisticated ambiance.”
Just as the L.A. Mondrian is an “it” destination drawing in the A-list with enticements such as Skybar Lounge and Asia de Cuba restaurant, this new addition has the potential to do the same. Consider the impact of Morgans Hotel Group’s other ventures, The Shore Club and the Delano, on Miami Beach’s dining and nightlife scene. The hotels provide upscale restaurants such as Nobu and Ago and are often the scene of celebrity soirees. Feinberg thinks the Mondrian will have the same appeal. “I believe it will become a destination hotspot in Miami as well,” she says. “The Mondrian is not just a new hotel, it is a branded luxury lifestyle property. I think the reputation of the hotel will bring with it a built-in fan base.”
So how does Morgans Hotel Group plan to set the Mondrian apart from its other hotels in the same marketplace?
Goldberg says that new element is location, location, location. “I’ve done a walkthrough and it’s going to be awesome. And it’s not the same price point the other condo/hotels are going after. The W and Hotel Gansevoort are going after high-end, and their own the beach. Where would I want to live, the bay or beach? I love looking at the city, that’s what makes Miami what it is. I have a feeling there are going to be more of these developments on the Bay.”
It’s a concept that’s already motivated many to buy property on West Avenue. Says Buster, “With a different sunset every night setting over the Bay, I’m surprised that it hasn’t been done sooner. I think this might be the beginning of a trend. Everyone always lauds the oceanfront side of Miami Beach, but, honestly, I couldn’t live without those sunsets.”