Conversion of historic hotel on hold as owner notifies neighbors
By Suzy Valentine
Approval of the condo conversion of a $33 million hotel in Miami Beach is on hold until Jan. 10 while the purchaser properly serves notice to neighbors.
The city's Historic Preservation Board was to have ruled Dec. 13 on the project, which is to include construction of a seven-story, 39,000-square-foot tower adjoining the site at 425 Ocean Dr., but deferred to next month because residents within a 375-foot radius hadn't received written notice as required under city code.
Savoy Hotel Partners of Great Britain made an offer on the Savoy this year through Gary Cohen, a partner with Miami Beach development firm Cohen Meuniere Aguirre.
More than five months later, property records still display the seller, Arden Savoy Partners, as owner because the 1930s Art Deco property has defective title - a condition arising from a troubled timeshare enterprise by previous owner Sunterra Group.
That situation poses another obstacle for the owner, said an attorney for the Miami Beach residents affected.
"The owner also failed to notify other parties with a fee simple interest in the Savoy," said Kent Harrison Robbins. "It is required to provide 30 days' notice. The party claimed to have filed it, but there was nothing in the file on the day of the hearing."
Mr. Robbins said scores of owners are disputing the title to the property.
"There are 41 interests in the property," he said, "none of which was disclosed, and there are three warranty deeds showing other interests. To hold back that information is negligent at best. Non-disclosure of development interests was a shortcoming in the application."
Savoy Hotel Partners made an offer for the hotel and a nearby parking lot at Fourth Street and Collins Avenue to Arden Savoy Partners, which purchased it for $18 million in 2001. Arden Savoy Partners, a joint venture of the Arden Group of Philadelphia and Gemstone Properties, made applications to the city during its four-year ownership.
"Two years ago, they tried to build a 100-foot tower on that property," said Mr. Robbins, "and they were defeated then."
The project has other implications for the neighborhood, he said.
"Impact is another factor," said Mr. Robbins. "Construction of a 75-foot tower at the Savoy would put the pool at a development at 465 Ocean Dr. in shadow for a high percentage of the day. That makes the project incompatible with the surroundings."
Traffic on the road, dubbed Deco Drive, would be adversely affected, he said.
"It's the largest hotel on that stretch without an internal driveway," said Mr. Robbins. "Ocean Drive is only two lanes wide, one lane in each direction. When the trucks come to load and unload there - 15 to 20 a day servicing the hotel restaurant - that is going to have a huge impact."
Savoy Hotel Partners is a Florida company registered to Avi Werjuka of Orlando, where the business plans another 1,330-unit condo project.