Lionstone evicts tenants to convert downtown Ramada Dupont hotel
By Paola Iuspa
Owner Lionstone Hotels & Resorts plans to start converting the residential portion of its newly acquired Ramada Dupont Plaza in downtown Miami into a Marriott extended stay style hotel within two months.
Tecton Hospitality of Miami, which now handles leasing for the 146 apartments in the Dupont complex at 300 Biscayne Blvd. Way, will manage the 142 extended-stay rooms as well, said Richard Millard, Tecton president and CEO. He said renovations would be completed in six months and that the Marriott would open in spring.
The Residence Inn will be the first phase of a $70 million redevelopment plan. Another phase calls for converting four floors of the 11-story office building into the Travel & Trade Center of the Americas and is estimated to cost $8 million, said Martin Elortegui, Lionstone director of operations.
The Ramada Inn Hotel, operating in the complex's east wing, will be replaced with a higher-end boutique hotel whose flag has not yet been determined.
"Currently, we are negotiating with three renown hotel chains," Mr. Elortegui said. "The concept for that hotel will be new to the Brickell and downtown areas."
Lionstone decided to bring a Residence Inn - with 142 rooms that feature full kitchens, a data-port and voice mail system and in-room movies - based on a marketing study that showed a need for an alternative to the high-end hotels recently opened or under construction in the neighborhood, he said.
"You find this type of Marriott hotel in financial districts in cities across the states," Mr. Elortegui said. "This is a hotel for executives who are sent to Miami for two, three, six months and don't want to be in a hotel-like environment or call room service to have a meal. This is for those who want to prepare their own food and feel at home."
Lionstone closed on the purchasing of the 750,000-square-foot complex that is made up of offices, apartments and hotel rooms about two weeks ago, said Mr. Elortegui.
There are about 364 Residence Inns in the US, with one in Coconut Grove, he said.
A challenge Lionstone may have to overcome to open the hotel in less than a year is a threat of a suit by apartment tenants. Scott Sandler, attorney representing Lionstone residents, said his clients are filing a suit to delay evictions to gain more time to find a new place.
Tenants received an eviction notice Aug. 1 and would have to leave their apartments in 30 days.
"Tecton was responsible for leasing out the apartments," Mr. Sandler said. "They were responsible for advising tenants" about the conversion plans. "They did not say anything. They were still leasing out apartments two weeks ago. Many of the tenants moved in in May."
The suit would request additional time and money to cover moving expenses and reimbursement for new carpets and painting jobs tenants did to units when they moved in a few months ago, Mr. Sandler said.
Mr. Elortegui said he had been out of town last week and was not ready to comment. He said the company's attorney was evaluating the situation.