$150 million North Beach project to build 1950s hotel into residential towers
By Frank Norton
WSG Development and a minority partner closed on a $28 million land deal to make way for a residential project that would incorporate North Beach's famed Carillon Hotel, vacant for nearly 15 years.
The developers' latest plans would triple the size of the 1950s structure at 68th Street and Collins Avenue by adding two condominium towers. One will share the south parcel with the Carillon and the other will go on adjacent land to the north.
The northern tower will rise 39 stories with 238 condo units, according to WSG, while the other would have 20 stories with 140 condo units. The structure in the middle would be gutted and resurfaced in its original Miami Modern architectural style.
On hold for two years awaiting a foreclosure settlement, the July 15 deal was finalized with the refinancing of the Carillon and purchase of the northern parcel.
WSG is now the majority holder of the properties while former Carillon owner Transnational, led by Cristiane Bomeny, retains a minority stake in the southern lot.
Building permits awarded two years ago called for renovating the Carillon into a 500-unit hotel, but changing market conditions led WSG to reshape that plan into a 236-unit rental building with hotel amenities, WSG President Eric Sheppard said.
"This," he said, "is also for people who don't want to pay a ton of money to live on the Beach. It's a bedroom community where we're creating a friendly neighborhood environment, not a hustle-bustle one."
Mr. Sheppard, born and raised in Miami Beach, says preliminary cost estimates are above $150 million, but projected revenues near $300 million in three to five years.
"In this day and age everyone is selling million-dollar apartments," Mr. Sheppard said. "But what this project offers is reasonably priced apartments ranging between $250,000 and $850,000.
"The Carillon used to be the place where the stars would hang out. To bring it back into the new age with 800 feet of ocean view is very exciting," he said.
The Carillon was a well-known nightspot in the '50s but lost popularity as property values in the area dipped. It has since become an architectural landmark, displaying the exaggerated 1950s idea of modernism.
Miami Beach construction firm Charleville Development Corp. is to begin the project on Aug. 12. Total construction is to cover more than 1 million square feet, roughly two-thirds of which will be new towers.
Mr. Sheppard said he expects the refurbished hotel to be ready in '03 and the north tower to be finished in '05. A completion date has not been set for the second condo.
The project's building permit is the largest ever granted on Miami Beach, said Greenberg Traurig attorney Lucia Dougherty, who helps developers secure approval for large-scale development.
Under the deal, WSG bought the northern parcel for roughly $15 million through a limited partner subsidiary, Mr. Sheppard said. The other site was purchased for $13 million in association with Transnational Properties, which will retain a minority stake in the investment. Both transactions were partially underwritten by Lehman Bros.
WSG is also developing the 17-story Sky in North Bay Village and 27-story Sky Residence in Miami.