Espirito Santo Plaza still needs buyer for hotel in its $160 million Brickell project
By Sherri C. Ranta
Estoril Inc. continues to negotiate for a buyer for its 203-room luxury hotel in the $160 million Espirito Santo Plaza, a mixed-use project under construction at 1395 Brickell Ave.
Despite a softness in the market, company president Bill Ross said developer/owner Estoril, a Florida corporation, and its parent company, financial entity Group Espirito Santo of Portugal, will go forward with the hotel component of the 36-story tower scheduled for completion in the summer.
"Most hotels are willing to accept some soft occupancy in the short term for the long-term goal of having a hotel on Brickell," Mr. Ross said. "Sure, the short term has problems, but there are no other new opportunities on Brickell. It's either negotiate with our company or wait another 10 years for other opportunities."
At one point Estoril reported a signed letter of intent for the hotel but that agreement has fallen through, Mr. Ross said. The company hopes to announce an agreement early next year.
In addition to its hotel component, plans for the tower call for another 116 condominium units - owners have the option to enter the hotel program - about 260,000 square feet of office space and about 30,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, said William Holly, leasing agent.
Espirito Santo Bank, a division of Group Espirito Santo, will occupy about 70,000 square feet in the tower. Another 40,000, Mr. Holly said, will be leased by law and financial services firms. About half of the retail/restaurant space is committed, he said.
Interest in the residential component runs high, Mr. Ross said, although the units are not yet for sale.
"We constantly have people show up at the office wanting to buy them. People have confidence in the economy," he said. "They know its slow now, but they know it will come back."
Workers are now enclosing the tower in glass, he said. The hurricane-resistant exterior glass, developers said, will cost more than $22 million.
Espirito Santo is already making ties to the Miami-Dade community. The company is a supporter of New World School of the Arts, a public high school and arts college downtown that is a joint venture among the University of Florida, Miami-Dade Community College and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
On Dec. 6, Espirito Santo will sponsor its fourth fund-raiser for the school at the opening of a new exhibit of student work at the New World School of the Arts Gallery, 300 NE Second Ave. The exhibit will run through Jan. 15 and overlap with December's Art Basel show at Miami Beach Convention Center.
The developer asked students, faculty members and well-known Miami-area residents such as syndicated columnist and author Dave Barry and Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to decorate hard hats that will be on display Dec. 6 and then auctioned at 9 p.m. The event is planned to raise thousands of dollars for the school, Mr. Ross said.
Dean of Visual Arts Louise Romeo said the art project is creating a wave of excitement at the school. Many of the hats, she said, reflect still life, abstract and futuristic scenes. One hat with antlers has become a favorite.
"They are a joy to see and fun to wear. People are coming in to my office to borrow them and periodically to wear them to meetings. It's created a whole new experience," she said.
The show, Ms. Romeo said, is being held in celebration of the coming of Art Basel, an international art show based in Switzerland that draws thousands of art dealers, collectors and artists from around the world. The December show is the first time Art Basel will be coming to Miami-Dade County.
"Our hope," Ms. Romeo said, "is that Art Basel (participants) will come out and see the work. We're celebrating their coming as is every other major art organization in Miami."
Details: New World School of the Arts (305) 237-3135.