Bal Harbour greenlights $1 billion hotel-condo project
By Charlotte Libov
Demolition of the Sheraton Bal Harbour hotel may begin by late summer to make way for the five-star St. Regis-Bal Harbour Hotel and Residences following the Bal Harbour Village Council's unanimous approval Tuesday of the $1 billion project.
The project required a zoning change from oceanfront to planned development to enable the hotel condo's three 26-floor glass towers to be constructed perpendicular to neighboring residential buildings.
"It's going to be a beautiful addition. You're talking about putting a five-star-plus state-of-the-art hotel in place of a 50-year-old hotel," said Mayor Seymour Roth, who cast the lone dissenting vote at the first hearing last month.
At that time, he said he was concerned about conflicting figures over whether the project would eat into required town open space. But after Tuesday's vote, he said he was satisfied that was not the case.
"My concern was never the beauty of the project or the developer. The only objection I had was the way the park space was calculated," he said, adding that officials from the county's parks department met with local staff to review the plans.
"We're very happy," said Carter N. McDowell, a lawyer with Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axlerod, representing the joint venture of Starwood Hotels and the Related Group.
"We spent a year going through the project. It went through one redesign. I think it's a great project, and it's going to be great for Bal Harbour," Mr. McDowell said.
Now that zoning has been changed, the developer will apply for permits, he said. The hotel is to be closed in June for demolition, although no decision has been made whether it will be taken down gradually or imploded. Mr. McDowell said he anticipates the three-year construction project to begin by year's end or the first quarter of 2007.
"It's really a remarkable project," he said. "It's not cheap, but nothing is inexpensive anymore."
"I thought it went very, very well. There was very little opposition," said Merrett Stierheim, a former county manager and Miami city manager hired by the village government to be a consultant on the project.
"I had really looked hard to find something wrong with this project," Mr. Stierheim said. "As one of the founders of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, I spend a lot of time trying to book conventions, and there's a part of me that feels badly that we're going to lose a 655-room convention facility. But on the other hand, I see nothing but pluses for the residents of the village." He noted that the developers promised to pay the village $12.2 million to compensate for loss of taxes during the three-year construction job.
For Mayor Roth, a big plus will be improvement in traffic congestion by replacing the 645-room Sheraton with the condo hotel.
"Now we are going to have a developer with 1,000 parking spaces for 511 units," the mayor said. "That will be two parking spaces for each unit, so it will not be a situation where you have to park cars in the Bal Harbour Shops anymore."