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Front Page » Top Stories » Upscale Asian Hotel To Open On Watson Island

Upscale Asian Hotel To Open On Watson Island

Written by on October 6, 2005

By Suzy Valentine
Another upscale Asian hotel is coming to Miami, entering the US market through a venture on Watson Island.

A 147-room Shangri-La Hotel is to form part of Island Gardens, a $480 million Flagstone Property Group project that also is to feature a business hotel, Westin Miami.

This week, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts announced plans to open in Chicago in 2009, a year after projected completion of the Miami property – its first venture outside Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

The group is based in Hong Kong, home to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, which chose an island location on Brickell Key for its Miami hotel that opened in 2000.

The groups are targeting similar markets.

Mandarin Oriental will open in Chicago in 2008, a year before the Shangri-La.

Swire Properties clinched the deal to build the Mandarin Oriental in Miami on land it owns on Brickell Key. A senior Swire executive said that move, plus the presence of a major Asia-oriented bank, made the city more attractive to companies from the Far East.

"I think there will be greater interest on the part of Asian businesses," said Megan Kelly, vice president of Swire Properties. "The Mandarin Oriental and HSBC have huge visibility and act as beacons to other Far East interests. By persuading a hotel of the caliber of the Mandarin Oriental to come to Miami, Swire has validated this market for Asian businesses."

A hotel representative said the property blazed a trail for high-end brands.

"Mandarin Oriental was the first luxury hotel group to discover Miami," said Jorge Gonzalez, the hotel’s general manager. "We saw the city as a high-growth market and as an international gateway.

"It’s not that Miami has become a destination for Asian companies," said Mr. Gonzalez. "These few luxury Asian companies have now realized that Miami is a destination that can accommodate other luxury brands. After our five successful years of doing business in Miami, other companies are now seeing its great growth potential."

Another chain with a Hong Kong base has two condo-hotel offerings in the works in Miami-Dade County.

Regent International Hotels, founded in the former British territory in 1970, is to open Regent South Beach this fall. Regent Bal Harbour, a WCI Communities project, is to follow next year.

Even where there isn’t an Asian link, developers are still looking to the Far East for inspiration.

Two weeks ago, the developers of a 21-story, 134-unit condominium project in Miami Beach unveiled blueprints for the project’s interiors at an event at the Mandarin Oriental.

New York-based PMG Collins – a subsidiary of Property Markets Group – is using Hirsch Bedner Associates, the designer that worked on the hotel, for a development called Mei, meaning "beauty" in Chinese. The developer toyed with the name Tao but rejected it after having learned it is being used in the north of the state.

The 5875 Collins Ave. property is to feature a library, lobby and tearoom. Mei is slated for completion in spring 2007.