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COMO Hotels making first U.S. push in Miami Beach (The Miami Herald)

By Hannah Sampson, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

June 04--Sandwiched between two giant hotel developments, the future Metropolitan by COMO is a significantly smaller affair.

But the hotel's 74 rooms, two pools, seafood restaurant and spa represent a big step in the continuing evolution of Miami Beach, hotel representatives and experts say.

The property is the first U.S. outpost for COMO Hotels and Resorts, a Singapore-based hospitality company founded by entrepreneur Christina Ong that includes nine other properties around the world. (The name stands for her initials and those of her daughter, Melissa Ong.) Including the Miami Beach hotel, the portfolio is expected to grow to 13 properties this year.

Located at the site of the former Traymore Hotel, 2445 Collins Ave., the nine-floor hotel is on track to open in mid-December. The site is undergoing a full gutting, though representatives for the privately-owned company will not say how much they are spending. The company bought the 1939 building at the beginning of 2012 for $17.5 million, property records show.

"The fact that they now are seeing South Beach and Miami as a viable point of entry to introduce a new brand to the U.S. is very significant inasmuch as people recognize that we have become a worldly market," said Boaz Ashbel, managing director of Coconut Grove investment banking firm Aztec Group.

Hotel representatives said proximity to Parrot Cay by COMO in the Turks and Caicos made Miami Beach an attractive location because guests traveling to the Caribbean island already had to stop in Miami.

During a recent tour of the construction site, general manager Javier Beneyto pointed out the high ceilings, historic terrazzo floors, pool area out back and future rooftop hydrotherapy pool and outdoor yoga pavilion. Renderings show interiors from Italian designer Paola Navone that will be sleek and modern with mint green pops and dramatic lighting fixtures.

Significant space will be devoted to the brand's award-winning COMO Shambhala spa and wellness area, and the hotel has a perk few others in Miami Beach can boast: water views in the back and front. The Metropolitan has a clear look at the ocean in the back and, across Collins Avenue in the front, Lake Pancoast, where the hotel will have a dock.

Beneyto said the goal will be to create a private, secluded haven for guests. The focus will be on essentials, especially cuisine and service, and the planned price point shows that the company is looking for a high-end clientele: starting in the mid-$300s in low season.

"If you're looking for barefoot elegance, no one can beat us," Beneyto said.

Most of guests at COMO properties around the world, which include resorts in London, Bangkok, the Maldives and Bali, are from the United States. The Miami Beach hotel also expects to cater to Latin American and European travelers, the manager said.

Max Comess, a director in the hotel group at commercial real estate investment banking firm HFF, said the investment by an Asian firm also holds promise for eventual greater number of tourists from Asia. He cited Swire, developers of Brickell Key and Brickell CityCentre, as well as Genting Group, which bought The Miami Herald site on Biscayne Bay, as trailblazers.

"The investors come first, then the airlines follow, then the actual travelers come after that," he said.

Kuno Fasel, chief operating officer of COMO Hotels and Resorts, said the Traymore became available at the right time. As the project progresses, the Edition Miami Beach and Faena District projects areunderway a few blocks north and the renovation of the former Gansevoort is taking place just to the south.

"It's just amazing what's going on here, it's just booming," Fasel said. "We are, I think, at the right time here right now. If you would have waited a year longer, it would have been too late."


(c)2013 The Miami Herald

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