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Morgan Hotel Groups, The Delano, in South Beach, Florida Gets a Rebirth of its Own

By Hannah Sampson, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 06, 2011--More than a decade and a half after breathing new life into South Beach, the Delano is getting its own rebirth.

With cosmetic enhancements throughout the property, a new restaurant and a relaunched nightlife venue all set to debut by late January, the hotel at 1685 Collins Ave. will get about $10 million in upgrades.

"It's really about taking something that's classic and reinvigorating it," said Michael Gross, CEO of Delano owner Morgans Hotel Group. "This has been a phenomenal year for the property and it continues to perform very well. So it's really about trying to take the Delano to the next level both in terms of the overall quality of the guest experience within the rooms, but also in the food and beverage and nightlife components, which were always so critical to what made the property so unique."

During the quarter that ended Sept. 30, the Delano was a key contributor to a company-wide increase in per-room revenue, Morgans Hotel Group said in its most recent earnings release. During the typically slow summer season, the hotel commanded average daily rates of $380 and revenue per available room of $224 -- both double-digit increases over 2010. During the recent Art Basel week, the Delano sold out with daily rates of about $1,025.

The iconic boutique hotel sparked a transformation in South Beach when it reopened in 1995 following a makeover from hotelier Ian Schrager and designer Philippe Starck.

These days, the trendsetter has a lot of company: The SLS Hotel South Beach is under construction a stone's throw from the Delano on Collins Avenue. The W South Beach up the road, open since 2009, draws dependably hip crowds. And the nearby Surfcomber Hotel was recently folded into the boutique Kimpton collection after a renovation.

"There's a ton of investment," said Gregory Rumpel, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels in Miami. "I think it's part of keeping up with the programming. The Delano's been the epicenter since the mid '90s. It's had a long run at the top of the heap. I think they need to be doing something to stay current and fresh."

In store: refurbished bungalows, an extended pool deck and new outdoor furniture, carpeting in the hallways, furniture in suites and flooring in elevators. Every room will have an iPad, and bathrooms in suites and bungalows will include TV sets floating in the mirrors. The hotel will also add three new board rooms to attract small groups and meetings by mid-March.

The biggest change, however, will come to the Blue Door Fish restaurant, which will become Bianca, an Italian restaurant with a focus on organic and locally sourced food. More than the menu will change; the restaurant will be less closed off than it is now with more light and "eye appeal," said Morgans Hotel Group regional vice president JP Oliver, describing the new space as "a place to see and be seen."

Last month, Morgans Hotel Group closed on its purchase of a 90 percent interest in Las Vegas nightlife company The Light Group, which will oversee the new restaurant and nightlife space. The company operates several nightclubs, restaurants, pool lounges and bars for MGM Resorts International, but it has some local expertise as well: working as a consultant for The Light Group is South Beach nightlife veteran Chris Paciello.

In addition to the Delano, Morgans Hotel Group also owns, has ownership in or manages a dozen other hotels around the world, including the Shore Club and Mondrian in Miami Beach. Over the past year, the company has sold several of its properties in a move to become "asset-light" and focus instead on developing and managing hotels. Still to come are Delano hotels planned for Turkey and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and Mondrian hotels in Nassau and Doha, Qatar.

"It's a cornerstone of not just our Miami presence, but our company overall," Gross said. "And part of our strategy going forward is to really focus on a couple of core brands. Clearly the Delano is at the heart of that global initiative going forward of building out the Morgans Hotel Group management business."


(c)2011 The Miami Herald

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