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 Key International Signs $100 million Contract to Acquire the
 Eden Roc in Miami Beach from Blackacre Capital Group;
Plans to Add New Condo-hotel Tower

By Douglas Hanks III, The Miami Herald
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News

Jul. 27, 2005 - The owners of the South Beach Marriott are buying the Eden Roc resort and plan to add a 20-story tower with 300 rooms to the 1956 oceanfront hotel, an executive with the buyers said Tuesday.

The expansion would give the Eden Roc 649 rooms and make it the third largest hotel in Miami Beach. The new tower and a planned renovation costing between $15 million and $20 million would come as its neighbor, the Fontainebleau, also adds hundreds of new rooms and prepares a major makeover of its interiors.

Key International, the Ardid family's real-estate development firm, has signed a $100 million contract for the Eden Roc at 45th Street and Collins Ave, said Diego Ardid, a vice president at the company. Owner Blackacre Capital Group declined to comment Tuesday on the reported deal, which Ardid said should close next month.

The Eden Roc and the Fontainebleau once defined Miami Beach glamour, before the glitz, stars and luxury rates headed down Collins for a stylish crop of renovated Art Deco hotels in South Beach.

During the 1950s and 60s, Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole and Milton Berle took the stage for supper shows at the Eden Roc's Cafe Pompeii. Lucile Ball, Jerry Lewis, Ann Margaret and various Rat Packers vacationed there. Caricaturist Al Hirschfield captured the Eden Roc's star power with a 53-celebrity mural over the hotel's bar. (It was removed years later in a renovation.)

Morris Lapidus designed the Eden Roc and the Fontainebleau, but there was no love lost between the owners. In 1962, the Fontainebleau's Ben Novack built a nearly windowless 17-story tower that cast a shadow over the Eden Roc's pool. Known as the Spite Wall, it currently houses 330 rooms at the Fontainebleau.

The Fontainebleau's new owners apparently are ready to take down that wall, much to the delight of the Eden Roc's buyers.

Ardid said the two hotels have hired the same architect, John Nichols. Nichols' design for the Fontainebleau property has the Spite Wall building demolished and replaced with a tower closer to the beach and, Ardid said, mostly clear of the Eden Roc's pool deck.

"I've seen some drawings," said Ardid. "The new tower will be better for the Eden Roc."

Fontainebleau's new owners have expressed interest in razing the Spite Wall building to make way for a larger tower, but so far have not announced their intentions. A Fontainebleau spokesman remained circumspect on Tuesday, but suggested a demolition -- which would require city approval -- might amount to a neighborly reconciliation.

"We're working with the new owners of the Eden Roc, and we're in discussions with them to solve the long-standing problem of the Spite Wall," said Thomas Bruny, the Fontainebleau's vice president of marketing. "We're presently in design stages and we don't have any details to announce at this point."

Key International, a Miami-based company, built the South Beach Marriott in 2000. Ardid, 25, oversees the hotel side of the company, while his brother, 28-year-old Inigo, heads the condominium division, including the Ivy, a 1,500-unit condominium complex planned along the Miami River. Their father, Jose, 57, is president of the company.

The Eden Roc will remain in Marriott's Renaissance chain, Ardid said. The new Eden Roc tower will likely be financed as a condo-hotel, with rooms sold individually. A conversion of the 349-room main building is a possibility too, Ardid said.


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