|The Miami Herald|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Feb. 5, 2005 - Developers plan a Ritz-Carlton condominium and time-share complex in Miami Beach, the fourth Miami-area property to carry the luxury hotel brand.
Diego Lowenstein, whose family owns the Ritz-Carlton in South Beach, said he and Miami-based developer Fortune International plan to convert the Seville Beach Hotel at 29th Street and Collins Avenue into an unspecified number of condominiums and extended-stay time-shares known as fractional ownerships.
Owners of those units have the right to use them for a month or more, instead of the one-week stays typical for time-share properties.
To build the new Ritz-Carlton, Lowenstein plans to demolish part of the 1955 hotel and build a pair of 21-story towers on the oceanfront property once known for hosting boxing matches.
Miami Beach zoning officials have recommended that the city's historic preservation board reject the plan, saying the Seville shouldn't grow beyond its current 12 stories and the hotel's old Matador room should be saved, documents on file with the city say.
If it wins zoning approval, the venture would bring a fourth Ritz-Carlton property to a region that already has three Ritz-Carlton hotels: in South Beach, Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne.
But Ritz-Carlton executives and Lowenstein aides emphasized that only unit owners would be staying at the new property, not transient guests.
"It is different -- it is residential versus hotel," Ritz-Carlton spokeswoman Beth Vairo said of the chain's residential properties, including one in Jupiter.
The developers -- zoning documents list Fortune President Edgardo Defortuna and Alfredo Lowenstein, Diego's father, as majority owners of the now-shuttered hotel -- are scheduled to appear before the preservation board Tuesday.
The new Ritz-Carlton venture reflects the growing value hotel brands are finding in the real estate market.
The Ritz-Carltons in Key Biscayne and Coconut Grove were paired with condominium complexes, as was the Four Seasons tower in Miami. And hotel projects from Fort Lauderdale to Islamorada are selling off single rooms as condo-hotel units.
The planned Ritz-Carlton Residences and Club South Beach would bring a novel hybrid for South Florida: time-share and standard condominiums. Though popular in other resort markets, the time-share and fractional concept has yet to gain traction here.
And this is believed to be the first South Florida property bearing a major hotel brand without a hotel component.
"It is like a hotel, but it is being sold as real estate," said Lowenstein, chief executive officer of Lionstone, his family's company.
Though some analysts had earlier questioned the wisdom of opening three Ritz-Carltons in a single market, others dismissed suggestions Friday that the property might dilute the brand locally.
"I don't see that as competitive at all with our resort," said Sherwood "Woody" Weiser, an owner of the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. "It just doesn't affect us."
By Douglas Hanks III and Matthew Haggman
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