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Miami Beach's Eden Roc Renaissance Resort & Spa Closing for 6 Months;
$110 million Renovation Includes New 283 room Hotel Tower

By Niala Boodhoo, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Feb. 20, 2007 - Miami Beach's Eden Roc Renaissance Resort & Spa will close for at least six months for $110 million worth of renovations this April, further winnowing the pool of available hotel rooms in the area this year.

The hotel notified state regulators that 293 of the hotel's 325 workers will be laid off because of the renovations, but the property's director of sales and marketing, Saun Lightbourne, said those workers will be found temporary jobs at other Marriot brand hotels in South Florida.

"Our goal is to bring them all back Nov. 1," Lightbourne said, adding that workers who transfer to other Marriot properties will still receive all of the same benefits. There are 29 Marriott International properties from Fort Lauderdale to Key Largo.

The multimillion-dollar makeover will almost double the size of the hotel. The company plans to add a second tower with 283 rooms. The existing tower's 349 rooms will be gutted and restored, complete with plasma televisions in each room and upgraded bathrooms.

When complete, the renovations, which are scheduled to be finished by fall of 2008, will include five pools, two signature restaurants and 17 "bungalow" suites, Lightbourne said. The hotel plans to reopen 200 rooms in the existing tower this November.

The 50-year-old property last underwent a major renovation in 1999. The upgrades come as its next-door neighbor, the Fountainebleau, is shut for a two-year renovation that began last March.

Hotel room supply in South Florida has dropped as properties shut for renovations or conversions to condos. Supply was down three percent last year, according to Smith Travel Research.

But room rates are increasingly pricey throughout South Florida, with Miami-Dade County ranking the third-highest in the country for hotel prices, only behind New York and Oahu, Hawaii, Smith Travel says.

The big bills have dampened demand for hotel rooms, with occupancy dropping two points last year.

The Eden Roc's closure will probably have just a minor impact on the hotel market in South Florida, said Ernst & Young's Miami-based hospitality analyst Mark Lunt, who sees the renovations for the property as essential to competing in the upscale hotel climate of Miami Beach.

Because of low demand during hurricane season, the impact of those rooms being closed won't be felt until later in the year, when other new properties are set to open, Lunt said.

"Those existing hotels in Miami Beach that have already done their work will see a slight positive," he said, adding that particularly large groups will need to find other places to go.

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Copyright (c) 2007, The Miami Herald

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