Versace Friend To Help Design Beach Condo Hotel
By Suzy Valentine
An interior designer who sought refuge in the Bahamas after the death of close friend Gianni Versace is being lured back for his first South Beach project in almost eight years, say those redeveloping The Angler’s Hotel.
J. Wallace Tutt worked on the interiors of the late fashion designer’s Ocean Drive house, Casa Casuarina, but made the Bahamas his home after his friend’s 1997 shooting. There he set up the five-star Rock House Hotel.
"He has been quite secluded for the past seven to eight years," said developer Gregg Covin, "but we convinced him that the property is so beautiful."
Mr. Tutt can begin work on the condo hotel this spring, once the transaction is completed.
On Jan. 21, a $5 million bid was accepted on the property at 634-642 Washington Ave. – a deal that is to be final in April or May. Mr. Covin is working with developer Brian Gaines, nightclub owner Michael Capponi and architect Allan Shulman on the project and has earmarked $15 million for the renovation.
The Angler’s Hotel, built in the 1930s, welcomed Ernest Hemingway during its heyday, said Mr. Gaines, but fell into disrepair and "has been boarded up for the past 10 to 15 years."
"We plan to take it off the police blotter," he said, "and turn into a taxpaying citizen."
It’s the second time Mr. Covin and Mr. Gaines have tried to buy the property. In 1999, they decided they weren’t prepared to undertake the required due diligence on the site. A later buyer Alan Lieberman had to return the property after he purchased it with defective title.
The duo has collaborated on five other projects in which derelict South Beach properties have been converted into condo units or hotels, including the Mont Clair and St. Augustine Hotel.
Developers plan to convert 87 rooms into 55 units from 500 to more than 1,000 square feet priced at $350,000 to $1 million. A restaurant, possibly modeled after the Rock House, is to be incorporated, with completion set for fall 2006.