Key Biscayne Sonesta to become condo hotel
By Suzy Valentine
Officials at Sonesta Beach Resort on Key Biscayne announced plans Tuesday to convert the facility to a condo hotel with expectations of netting $650 million on sales of the units.
Fortune International is to market the development.
The existing property, built in 1969, will remain open until 2006 while the project is planned. The resort will close during a two-year construction.
Sonesta has sister properties on Sunny Isles Beach and in Coconut Grove.
The project will allow Boston-based Sonesta International Hotels Corp. an opportunity to double the size of rooms and upgrade to five-star quality, said Roger Sonnabend, the company's executive chairman.
"The rooms are 1960s sizes. They are 330 square feet, and we intend to build rooms of 500 to 600 square feet," he said. "Also, Miami could use an additional first-class hotel."
Neighboring Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, Four Seasons Hotel and the region's only five-star hotel, Mandarin Oriental Miami, are obvious rivals, he said, though the Brickell and Brickell Key properties don't qualify as resorts.
"We're determined to at least equal if not better them," he said. "There is a shortage of truly luxurious hotels, and Key Biscayne lends itself to that quality. Other cities boast a number of five-star hotels, Miami doesn't."
That would be achieved, Mr. Sonnabend said, by offering better service.
"Training of personnel will be even more important. In a five-star property, more service is expected, more service on the beach."
Consumers weren't necessarily becoming more demanding, he said. Rather, others were looking at saving money.
"It goes both ways," Mr. Sonnabend said. "There's also tremendous demand for less expensive hotels with less service - a growth in the budget market."
The 10.5-acre site could accommodate a 930,000-square-foot facility, he said, with 200,000 square feet of public space and 700,000 square feet in guest rooms.
Mr. Sonnabend declined to reveal construction costs, though Fortune is to pay Sonesta $30 million in cash and discharge a mortgage of the same value as part of the transaction. Sonesta is to transfer the four-diamond AAA site to Fortune for $60 million and enter into a 50-50 partnership in the deal, set to close by mid-April.