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Front Page » Top Stories » Groundbreaking Slated For Fall For Watson Island Project

Groundbreaking Slated For Fall For Watson Island Project

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Written by on February 22, 2007

By Eric Kalis
After more than five years of planning and permitting, developer Flagstone Property Group is ready to break ground this year on its $575 million mixed-use project on Watson Island.

With all of the necessary permits from the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, Flagstone CEO Mehmet Bayraktar said last week that construction of Island Gardens should begin in the fall. The project, which includes a pair of hotel towers supported by ground-floor retail and a 50-slip mega-yacht marina that would accommodate yachts of up to 450 feet long, is targeted for completion in 2010, Mr. Bayraktar said.

The development team began talking to potential retailers and restaurateurs last month but has not secured leases for the 221,000 square feet of retail space, Mr. Bayraktar said. The complex is to include a landscaped promenade flanked by outdoor European-style cafés, he said.

Miami commissioners granted Flagstone a 75-year lease in 2001. The Miami Beach developer received a major use special permit in 2004.

When Flagstone considered pursuing the project, Mr. Bayraktar said, he "envisioned places in the Mediterranean, little bays like St. Tropez or Monte Carlo. The island is a perfect spot to create a destination between Miami and Miami Beach."

Flagstone signed two high-end hotel operators for each tower in 2005. International luxury operator Shangri-La will run a 150-room, five-star hotel with a separate timeshare component. Eight shares will be sold for each of about 100 two- to four-bedroom timeshares.

Shangri-La "understands hospitality and has properties in Asia where it provides services to condominiums," Mr. Bayraktar said. "The typical fractional buyers come to Miami so regularly, they hate to stay in a hotel because they have extended visits. They do not want to own a condo or house because of the hassle involved."

The other hotel tower will be operated by Westin, a luxury flag with experience hosting conventions and corporate events, Mr. Bayraktar said. The 350-room tower will include enough ballroom space to accommodate 1,100 diners or more than 2,000 for a reception, he said.

"The Westin was the perfect brand because it has a solid client base of Fortune 500 companies," Mr. Bayraktar said. "The ballroom space will be one of the biggest available in Miami."

Watson Island’s proximity to downtown Miami and Miami Beach coupled with the marina indicates both hotel operators will have success, said Guy Trusty, president of Lodging and Hospitality Realty in Coral Gables.

"This is a great location for a high-end hospitality product," Mr. Trusty said. "People who can afford mega-yachts will be able to afford staying in the hotels. Watson Island is a great tourist place that is never used."Details: www.flagstonegroup.com.

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