Dupont owners put rehab on hold, weigh partnership offers
By Paola Iuspa
With an $80 million renovation plan on hold, the future of the 44-year-old Dupont Plaza in downtown Miami is at a crossroads.
Owners of the property, Lionstone Hotels & Resorts, said they are analyzing four offers from independent developers to form a partnership to redevelop the site. They expect to decide in two weeks whether to go ahead with the year-old remodeling work or accept one of the offers, said Martin Elortegui, Lionstone's director of operations.
The group, he said, is not interested in selling the 11-story building at the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, which it acquired less than a year ago.
The renovations, halted almost a month ago, were to add a travel and trade center to the office portion of the 750,000-square-foot complex, 300 Biscayne Boulevard Way. The redesign also called for converting the vacant Dupont Plaza Apartments, at the building's west side, into a Residence Inn by Marriott by this summer. The Dupont Hotel, on the east side of the structure and managed by Ramada Inn, was to be upgraded as well.
Mr. Elortegui said proposals they are considering are from two local developers and two national developers. Ideas include tearing down about two-thirds of the building and erecting a residential tower of up to 40 floors while keeping one of the hotels, he said.
All four proposals call for mostly residential use.
Mr. Elortegui would not say if one of the developers eyeing a partnership on the Dupont is MDM Group, the development firm headed by Ricardo Glas with a contract to buy 6 acres of the 9-acre One Miami project. MDM's portion of One Miami is planned to be built directly north of the Dupont.
But according to Otto Boudet, senior adviser with the Miami mayor's office, MDM officials have met during the past month with Lionstone principals to "see how their project could be tied to the Dupont Plaza."
Mr. Elortegui, of the Dupont, did say he had reviewed MDM's conceptual plans for the One Miami project and liked the design.
"The area is going to improve tremendously with Mr. Glas' project," he said. "Property value has already gone up in the past year. The design is beautiful and modern looking. It will benefit us a lot."
He said MDM's proposed entertainment center, which is to have cafes, restaurants, shops and movie theaters will bring activity to an office-filled area that becomes deserted after 6 p.m.
"I don't worry about traffic congestion," he said. "They plan to convert one-way roads into two ways" in the area.
If Lionstone accepts one of the offers, Mr. Elortegui said, Lionstone would continue with plans to build the Travel & Trade Center of the Americas, but it would have to build the center elsewhere. He said his group has a contract to buy an office building in the central business district and has about 100 days to decide on the purchase.
"We would build the travel and trade center with exhibition space at that building," he said, declining to give other details.