County to seek bids for repairs to airport hotel
By Samantha Joseph
County aviation officials hope to invite bids this month from small construction companies to fix critical building code violations at the 45-year-old Miami International Airport Hotel.
Without the $12 million facelift, the aviation department will have to close the hotel.
The group plans to finance the renovations with the hotel's revenue and does not intend to ask the county for funds.
The upgrade would include $10 million construction work to install fire-resistant doors and walls that meet modern codes and a $2 million refurbishment to change carpets, drapes and upholstery in the hotel's 250 rooms.
It would be the first overhaul in more a decade and would bring the hotel up to code for the next six years
"Normally, hotels renovate every seven years, and that's why it's needed so badly," said Patricia Ryan, the Department of Aviation's manager of commercial operations.
But once they have completed the upgrade, aviation officials still need to decide on the hotel's management.
Since 2003, they have tried unsuccessfully to find a private partner to renovate, manage and expand the hotel.
In its failed proposal, the aviation department asked that in addition to upgrading and running the property, the private firm would also pay an annual fee of $4.5 million - a sum equal to the hotel's current yearly income.
Seventeen companies expressed an early interest in the deal but none took up the offer.
The failure of the original proposal is leading aviation officials to reconsider, offering to waive the annual fee and lift the requirement for operational duties to make the arrangement more appealing to a private partner.
The department will pitch the new proposal to Miami-Dade County commissioners and the transportation committee in the fall. One of the changes will be a suggestion that the county allow aviation officials to negotiate with potential investors to expand the hotel or build on an adjacent site rather than simply accept or reject bids.
Unlike the original offer, the revised plan would not require a private company to run the hotel. Instead, it might consider closing the old hotel, converting the building to another use or allowing an investor to build a new resort on an adjacent site.
The department is also considering a joint venture with a private developer to build an $80 million to replace the current property.
But for now, the group says that keeping the Miami International Airport Hotel operational is its first priority.
"We've made the decision, by deciding to renovate the hotel, to keep it open for at least six years," Ms. Ryan said.
The aviation department will propose to county commissioners that it continues a management agreement with the hotel's current operator, H.I.D. Co.
If all goes as planned, renovations of the hotel would start this fall and be finished early next year.