Amanresorts to do luxury complex on old Dempsey site
By Marilyn Bowden
A hotelier known for exclusive resorts in exotic locales plans a hotel and condominium complex at 2009 Collins Ave., former site of the Dempsey-Vanderbilt Hotel.
Indonesian hotelier Adrian Zecha, founder of Asia's Amanresorts, is partnering with a New York-based group to build The Setai, an eight-story, 91-room hotel and 195-unit oceanfront condo tower. The complex will be the group's US flagship property, said Jonathan J. Breene, founding partner with John Conroy of Setai Group.
The two were formerly with The Millennium Group, he said.
"We are permitted and are starting construction in December," Mr. Breene said. "The foundations are in. We expect a completion date of winter 2002, after about a year and a half of construction."
The former Vanderbilt property will be renovated to an all-suite hotel, he said, and the 38-story condo tower will be built beside it. The concept resembles an earlier, unrealized plan at the same site for Sonesta Sasson on the Beach.
The design of the Setai involved three sets of architects, Mr. Breene said the local Schapiro & Associates, New York-based Alayo Consulting Architects and Denniston International of Kuala Lumpur, which has designed the interiors of a number of Amanresorts. Natural fibers such as bamboo, wood and stone will be used throughout, he said, to lend the complex an Asian ambience.
Most properties in the Amanresort brand have 30 to 40 rooms, Mr. Breene said, and are in exotic locations. Currently, there's only one in the US at Jackson Hole, WY.
"South Beach fits into Mr. Zecha's GHM brand," he said, "which are generally five-star hotels with 90 to 110 rooms."
The average size of the 195-condo apartments is 1,200-1,400 square feet, he said, with penthouses to 6,500 square feet on the top three floors.
The 3-acre property will be extensively landscaped, Mr. Breene said, with three contiguous pools.
Pavarini Construction is general contractor. Mellon Bank holds the construction loan, Mr. Breene said, and Lehman Brothers will provide most of the equity. He estimated development costs at more than $30 million.
As with several other condo and hotel projects going up around town, condo unit owners will have the option of putting their units into the hotel's inventory when they are not in residence.
To take advantage of that option, however, Mr. Breene said they must buy the hotel's furniture.
"Our hotel operator, Adrian Zecha, has very high-end standards," he said. "There's no way he'll let people design their own units and tip them into the hotel pool."
He said the target market has not been defined, but he expects it will be diverse.
"The beauty of Miami is that the market segment is enormous," he said.
Hospitality consultant Scott Brush of Brush & Co. said there's some industry concern about the number of high-end hotels going up at the same time.
"Some are going after different markets," he said. "The JW Marriott and the Four Seasons on Brickell are commercially oriented, as is the Ritz Carlton in Coconut Grove and to a large extent the Mandarin Oriental."
Miami-Dade will be the only county in the world with three Ritz Carltons, he said in the Grove, on Miami Beach and at Key Biscayne.
"Traditionally really high-end beach resorts for South Florida have been in Palm Beach County," Mr. Brush said. "They're all betting on there being an awfully large number of high-end people to put into these hotels.
"If they all do a good job, the market may be there. But the fact that they're all coming on at the same time means there will be a few bloody noses before everything gets sorted out."
Scott Berman, a hospitality consultant at Price Waterhouse Cooper, said he doesn't share the concern others have.
"There's a thirst for luxury accommodations in this market," he said, "and it's been much underserved to this point.
"So the combination of luxury accommodations in a resort setting is usually a formula for success.
"Amanresorts is largely unknown in North America, but to the sophisticated traveler it's certainly a familiar name."