Brickell project could include luxury hotel
By Shannon Pettypiece
Miami's financial district may see another large luxury hotel as part of a two-tower plan for 901 Brickell Ave.
Property owners Jorge Perez of The Related Group in Miami and French investor Claude Dray expect to sign a European hotel chain along with another "major local developer" in the next few weeks, said Victor Azria of Planet Realty, representing Mr. Dray.
He said he could not disclose the name of what is planned as a 300-room hotel but said it is a popular luxury brand in Europe.
"These people from the hotel in Europe are so enthusiastic, and they want it so badly," Mr. Azria said. "They are a major, major chain."
The property owners contacted officials from the hotel chain about a year ago, Mr. Azria said, and Mr. Dray has been meeting with them almost daily in Paris. Mr. Perez and Mr. Dray are building the two-tower project as part of a joint venture.
The development is also to include 500 one-, two- and three-bedroom condos with prices expected to range from $200,000 to $800,000, Mr. Azria said. On top of the hotel will be 200 rental units.
Mr. Azria said the project also would promote evening activity with a bar, a restaurant, boutiques and an outdoor plaza.
"We are trying to create a village atmosphere. We are going to try to create some late-night action," Mr. Azria said. "Brickell should have been for a long time the Madison Avenue of Miami, there are so many people who live around here."
If all goes well in the next few weeks, Mr. Azria said, ground could be broken in a few months and the towers could be built in two years.
The mixed-use development would replace a surface parking lot on 2.9 acres blocks from the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel and Towers, a soon-to-open Conrad Hotel in the Espirito Santo Plaza and the established Mandarin Oriental Miami on Brickell Key. All three are luxury hotels with 200-plus rooms.
Mr. Azria said the European hotel chain would bring its own clientele and he would not be concerned about filling rooms.
Hotel analyst Bruce Ford of Lodging Econometrics said that when the project would be completed in two years, the increase in supply created by the Conrad and Four Seasons hotels should be absorbed. But he said it is uncertain if a demand for luxury lodging would rebound by then.
"It seems that the supply that has been added should be absorbed by then," Mr. Ford said. "The question is whether demand will continue to increase in the luxury marketplace."
Mr. Dray purchased the land for $18 million in July 2002 from Equitable Life Insurance. Equitable acquired city permits in 1984, now extended to 2005, when it was planning a two-tower office complex next to the existing Brickell Square, 801 Brickell Ave., which Equitable built. Mr. Perez and Related Group signed onto the venture in September.
Mr. Dray said financing is not expected to be a problem.
"All the principals have a lot of money," he said. "If the deal goes through with the developer, we will not have any financing problems."