Melting Pot: Sheraton Miami Airport mixes tropical touches with local flavor

Under the sun, drink in hand and surrounded by palm trees—the ideal tropical experience for many. Capturing this utopian atmosphere both inside and outside of a property can seem unattainable, but the Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel & Executive Meeting Center, with the help of a San Francisco-based design firm and a $10-million investment for renovations, believes it has achieved an authentic tropical paradise rooted in a melting pot of diverse cultures.

“The Sheraton Miami Airport is coming up on its 40th birthday, and many guests have known the property for its premier location in the heart of Miami and the property’s proximity to Miami airport,” said Daniel McDermott, GM of the property. “These improvements help the property to celebrate and help to connect to guests in a new and different way where they can feel the excitement of refreshed guestrooms; a tropical and colorful atmosphere; and a new pool and patio, which have been transformed in a way that makes you forget the airport is only just moments from the property.”

The resort’s redesign goal was to showcase the intersection of modern design and ease of travel by creating the property’s own version of the quintessential South Florida resort vibe and aesthetic. “The new look illustrates a modern-day guest sanctuary and tropical paradise punctuated with colors and patterns influenced by the city’s distinct South American vibe and effortless ‘Miami cool,’” McDermott said, conceptualizing the vision.

Led by hospitality design firm Puccini Group, enhancements to the 405-room property, managed by Philadelphia-based HHM, included all guestrooms, the lobby, the exterior and the meeting space. “We were brought on board after the discussions of a remodel,” said Rob Polacek, chief creative officer/partner at Puccini Group. “Our firm was chosen because of our experience and success in hospitality-like projects—remodels and renovations.” The reason why the project intrigued the firm: “It was one that would challenge us creatively and give our team the opportunity to work in Miami again,” he said.

Certainly, the city inspired the firm.  “The city’s pulse dances to the beats of salsa, merengue, rumba,” he said. “Intoxicating flavors from citrusy Peruvian ceviche to rich Brazilian feijoada ignite and delight taste buds. The scenes of spices mingle with fresh sea air. Colors explode everywhere you turn: vivid pink, hibiscus, turquoise waters, deep green palm leaves, muted peach sands. This makes Miami unique.”

With direct pedestrian access to both the airport—which serves as a gateway for Latin America and the Caribbean—and the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC)—which provides direct connections to South Beach and Brickell—the hotel needed to offer an authentic design and experience. “We wanted to embrace the feeling of being in Miami when you arrive and stay at the hotel, even in such close proximity to the airport,” Polacek said.

Before setting foot in one of the property’s guestrooms, the guest is greeted by a refreshed entryway and porte cochère, which leads into a redesigned lobby. With new furnishings, new entry doors to pool areas, new personalized check-in desks, lobby art and interior landscaping, the lobby, as described by Polacek, is the “first step in Miami modernity.” The property will add a new coffee kiosk and gift shop this summer.

“The lobby provides an experience representative of the cultural vibrancy of the city and its eclectic personality and mesmerizing sensory overload that is life in our domestic Latin capital,” he said of the firm’s inspiration. “The colors and patterns chosen for the furniture in the public spaces were a direct reflection of the vibrancy of Miami.”

At the rear of the lobby, an opening to the outdoor pool area, adjacent to the Miami River and the Melreese Golf Course, awaits guests. “A spirit of optimism and endless possibility pervades the hotel’s spaces, especially epitomized at the inviting pool and greenery-fringed walkways,” Polacek said of the hotel’s upgrades. “Looking to escape into relaxation? Step into the upgraded amenity, showcasing new seating and planting.” Pool enhancements include modern tropical furnishings, new pavers and a retractable awning system, as well as bar areas. The Rickenbacker, the hotel’s restaurant, is near the redesigned pool area, which also has a white-sand beach installation.

Added to the property’s guestrooms are furnishings, soft goods and bathroom upgrades. In an attempt to incorporate simple, modern and clean design elements, the firm paired a neutral color palette with eclectic furniture pieces and patterns to reflect the South American influence. “A guestroom should be an oasis,” Polacek explained. “Whether it’s a business traveler’s hectic schedule, or the beginning to vacation tropics, fresh and modern details await at every turn. Saturated hues are juxtaposed with sun-bleached pastels.” Each room also has new carpet, artwork, bedding and a textile headboard.

Also renovated was 17,000 sq. ft. of event space, which holds up to 300 people. Puccini Group upgraded wallcoverings, carpeting and lighting throughout. The property added new audio-visual equipment in each of the meeting rooms.

The firm didn’t run into any unique design challenges. “Like with any remodel, the existing conditions of the finishes and fixtures must remain intact,” he explained. “To make the remodel sing, these existing conditions must not be ignored, and you need to make sure they work with the new design. We enjoyed working on this property because it had a great sense of interior space, and we relied on the existing architecture to command the sense of arrival—particularly in the lobby.”

The Sheraton Miami Airport Hotel doesn’t have any additional renovation plans coming down the pike; however, the property’s GM isn’t too concerned about it: The property’s recent upgrades have already been turning heads. “Guest comments about the changes have been very positive, and most are definitely surprised and pleased with the overall new vibrant and exciting decor and landscaping,” McDermott concluded. HB

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