A booming Downtown Miami is drawing developers

MIAMI—In case anyone traveling to Downtown Miami hasn’t noticed, there are many cranes along the skyline, and not the kind that fly.

“Construction cranes have returned to Miami’s core adding hotels and attractions throughout the flourishing Downtown Miami area,” said Rolando Aedo, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) EVP/chief marketing. “With more than 2.9 million overnight visitors to Downtown Miami in 2015, the area is experiencing an exhilarating surge of new hotel development by brands from across the globe.” 

According to Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority, hotel development has been robust for some time. “Between 2003 and 2008, we added a number of residential places, and during that time, we also started adding hotel rooms, actually seeing a change in the types of hotels that were here, adding many luxury four- and five-star hotels,” she said. In the years following, hotels that included residences, such as Epic and Viceroy, also opened.

Development has been coming in waves, bringing both major brands and independents. Among the most recent openings was EAST, Miami @ Brickell City Centre in May. The 352-room hotel is part of a mixed-use development by Swire Hotels that includes 89 residences. Robertson said there are another 12 new hotels “on the books” representing some 4,000 rooms.

“There’s a lot of interest in the city’s downtown as a destination,” she said, and it is drawing a variety of developers. For example, earlier this year, the 122-key The Langford debuted at 121 S.E. 1st St., coming online via an adaptive reuse of the former Miami National Bank, a designated historic site.

“Conversions and reuse of older buildings such as the Langford Hotel are adding to the destination’s diverse portfolio of hotel properties,” said Aedo.

Plus, said Robertson, “We’re seeing some boutiques, some large chains coming in. I think it’s a very good mix—and at differing price points, too.”

Other properties opening this year include the ME Miami, Homewood Suites, Hotel Indigo, Best Western, SLS Hotel and Atton Miami, which will be the first hotel in the U.S. for Chile-based Atton Hotels. 

“The international flavor of Greater Miami is reflected not only by our community, but by the developers, hoteliers, businesses and retailers from around the world investing in Miami. Top domestic hotel brands are being joined by international hotel brands that include EAST (Hong Kong), Atton (Chile) and ME (Spain). The former Viceroy Hotel is undergoing a transformation to a W Hotel, adding to the city’s already hip profile, which includes the resurgence of the Miami River sector. The strength of the Miami brand and the destination’s worldwide appeal has spurred domestic and international hotel development in Greater Miami’s core of downtown and throughout the destination,” said Aedo.

Projects on tap for 2017 include a Yotel, the SLS LUX Brickell and the mixed-use, 83-story Panorama Tower, which will include a 208-room hotel.

Robertson said the DDA also has in place a “2025 Master Plan for downtown.” The goal is to maximize the potential of the Central Business District, the Arts & Entertainment District, Brickell and the waterfront, with plans that would “increase the livability of downtown, encourage private sector investment and ensure the proper investment of public dollars.”

Robertson stressed the DDA “is a resource for developers on anything about downtown (albeit not permitting).”

One significant developer making a strong impact is Miami Worldcenter Associates, master developers of Miami Worldcenter, considered one of the largest, private master-planned projects in the U.S. The 10-block project, set across 27 acres, will feature “a diversity of urban land use,” including for retail, residential and hospitality.

The Worldcenter plans to incorporate a new 1,800-room Marriott Marquis World Convention Center Hotel, which will offer some 600,000 sq. ft. of meeting, convention and exhibition space, as well as an 80,000-sq.-ft. outdoor event deck and 1,800-car garage. The hotel is expected to open in 2018.

“The thing about the submarket of Downtown Miami is many people think of sand and beaches, but we’re really developing our own niche as a business center. We have lots of connectivity to South America, lots of flights in and out of Miami International to Europe. It’s pretty significant when you look at how it’s easier to get here than a lot of places,” said Robertson.

Still, Aedo emphasized the area’s location also is a distinct draw and driver.

“Downtown Miami has the distinction of being a world-class, waterfront city nestled within a lush tropical landscape. Just a short 15-minute Metrorail ride from Miami International Airport, and with a free people mover within, Downtown Miami is a hub for business and leisure travelers from around the globe. With its proximity to Port Miami—the cruise capital of the world—Downtown Miami also provides convenience to business and leisure travelers. Beaches, attractions, arts and culture, dining, shopping and diverse multicultural neighborhoods are all within minutes of downtown. Add year-round warm weather and a calendar of spectacular events and Miami’s appeal rises to the top of the list for savvy travelers and hotel developers,” enthused Aedo. “Greater Miami is consistently ranked among the top-five hotel markets in the U.S. in terms of occupancy, average daily room rate and revenue per available room, making the destination highly desirable for hotel development.”

As might be expected, both Aedo and Robertson are basically bullish on their outlooks for Downtown Miami in terms of hotels.

“In 2016, we will see a slight RevPAR growth, but within the following year, 2017, there will be a return to more-traditional Miami growth as new inventory is absorbed,” said Aedo.

Still, said Robertson, “The destination is very hot and continues to be hot among international and domestic visitors. I don’t see any signs of visitors not coming to Miami.” HB

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