International Trade Center Planned For Miamis Dupont Plaza
By Paola Iuspa
International trade center planned for Miami’s Dupont PlazaBy Paola Iuspa
A travel and trade center is planned for a renovated Ramada Dupont Plaza Hotel that could centralize foreign consulates, binational chambers of commerce and trade shows in downtown Miami, new owners said.
Lionstone Hotels & Resorts, which bought the building about two months ago, plans to spend about $65 million remaking the 750,000-square-foot complex, officials said. The site has offices, hotel rooms and apartments.
The property will retain a hotel component and convert apartments into corporate suites, Lionstone officials said. Because negotiations with hotel chains are under way, owners would not disclose details on the 297-room hotel portion.
Lionstone, based in Miami Beach, owns, leases and manages hotels in Florida, including the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, due to open late this year, and hotels in Aruba and Curaçao.
Part of the 160,000 square feet of offices, now 75% vacant, will become the Travel & Trade Center of the Americas and is planned to open by May 2002, said Martin Elortegui, the center’s director of operations.
"It is an ambitious project," said Antonio Jose Hernandez-Borgo, Venezuelan consul general. "It is viable. It could become a point of reference and would bring many people together."
Mr. Elortegui said $8 million would be spent on four floors of the 11-story building, 300 Biscayne Blvd., to create a hub for tourism and trade industries. About 20,000 square feet will be assigned to manufacturers and another area will have kiosks for travel-related interests to rent, he said.
"It will increase the pedestrian traffic," Mr. Elortegui said, "giving access to products of different countries to a larger number of people."
Teri Valls, president of Meetings Events & Conference Coordinators in Coral Gables, said while Miami has convention centers, it lacks "a large amount of conference rooms compared to cities like Chicago, New York and New Orleans."
"We do hold a lot of international meetings here," said Ms. Valls, also president of the South Florida chapter of Meeting Professionals International. "The Dupont Plaza has more of an international flare."
Diego Lowenstein, Lionstone president, said the firm had presented the idea at conferences in the Caribbean and Latin America and the response had encouraged him to move ahead.
Claudio Riedi, executive vice president of the Association of Bi-National Chambers of Commerce in South Florida, said he was not aware of the project until informed by a reporter but he would discuss it with his group.
"It sounds like a great idea," he said. "Any step taken to consolidate international contacts in Miami and to advance international trade is welcome. There are binational chambers opening here constantly and it is our goal to help them organize."
Others in the international community approved but wanted more information.
"Anything that promotes trade, tourism and culture is welcome," said Gabriel Pascual, president of the Central America-US Chamber of Commerce in Coral Gables. "But I would study it in detail to make sure it doesn’t duplicate efforts. There are some consulates and trade organizations already holding trade exhibitions and working" to reach a larger audience.
Chandradath Singh, consul general of Trinidad and Tobago, said it was practical to connect the center to a hotel.
"This is a very refreshing idea," he said. "But it is important that the fees to use the facilities are right. Prices need to be affordable. That is critical for us to carry out diplomatic missions."