In the 1940s, when winter winds bore down on the East Coast, the snazziest place to catch a warm breeze was the Lord Tarleton Hotel in Miami Beach.
Smack on the water with magnificent ocean views, the Lord Tarleton provided every luxurious amenity to its guests—the dining room was even kosher. The architecture was also appropriately swanky: a 14-story Art Deco skyscraper complete with a glass-walled dining room, rooftop solarium, and corner windows in every room.
In time, the hotel's original owners sold the building to the Cohen family, which owns and operates several hotels in south Florida; in the 1950s, the Cohen family built a second tower to house more guests and renamed the hotel the Crown. The building remained in operation as Miami Beach lost popularity, then gained it back, lost it, and gained it back again. Over time, tastes changed, and in the 2000s, other historic hotels nearby began converting to condominiums.
With the real estate landscape changing dramatically around them, the Cohens decided to take a new look at their 1940s masterpiece. They decided the time was ripe for a new incarnation of the Crown.
ROYAL COMMITMENT Most important to the family and their wholly-owned management company, Delray Beach, Fla.-based Atlantic & Pacific Management, was to keep the Crown as part of their portfolio: Its great seaside location and fantastic look made the property “their crown-jewel asset,” says APM chief operating officer Randy Weisburd. Since the company had shifted its focus over the years from hospitality to multifamily property management, converting to apartments was a logical choice.
But changes would have to be made. First, a new tower needed to be built to add more rentable space, so APM worked closely with Miami-based STA Architectural Group to design a new, 12-story, 40-unit tower that reflected the existing architecture. Meanwhile, historic common areas were carefully restored to their Art Deco glory. For example, samples of the terrazzo tile floors were used to recreate the colors—white, pale salmon, dark pink, and mint green—in the original pattern. “We also studied the original drawings to recreate the original details,” says STA project manager Jeff Gammill.
The renovation of individual units proved somewhat challenging. The team's approach was to transform potential obstacles into opportunities—an old elevator shaft became a unique breakfast nook, while rooms built in the old hotel ballroom ended up with 15-foot ceilings. The result is a lot of character for individual apartments. “We came up with concepts that would not only cost us less money but would also give a different feel to each unit,” Weisburd says.
An additional challenge came when the City of Miami Beach's Historic Preservation Board mandated that the family restore a small single-family home built in 1931 and located across the street from the Crown. The solution was to move the structure to the rear of the property and renovate it to operate as the complex's clubhouse and fitness center.
LIVING THE MIAMI LIFE With construction complete in April 2007, the Crown is now 60 percent occupied. APM recently announced Chicago-based Morton's The Steakhouse will soon occupy part of the 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of the complex's parking garage.
The Crown's 170 studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments range from 568 square feet to 1,344 square feet and feature granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and tiled foyers, kitchens, and baths. Some units even have private balconies overlooking the ocean.
The Crown's renovation has attracted attention from potential renters and former hotel guests alike. “On average, we have six to eight people every week walk in and look around,” Weisburd says. “Sometimes these are octogenarians who remember staying here in the '40s and '50s. People really feel an emotional connection to the building and want to know what we've done.”
PROPERTY: The Crown at Miami Beach
DEVELOPER: Atlantic & Pacific Management
ARCHITECT: STA Architectural Group
LOCATION: Miami Beach, Fla.
RENTS: $1,487 to $3,887
LENGTH OF RENOVATION: 24 months
SCOPE OF PROJECT: Conversion of a 1940s hotel to a luxury apartment building, including the adaptive reuse of an existing building, and construction of a new, 12-story tower as well as a parking garage with first-floor retail space.
ACTION ITEMS TURNING RAGS TO RICHES
- Go with your strengths. Several hotels near the Crown have converted to condos, but as owners and managers of more than 12,000 rental units, Atlantic & Pacific Management decided to focus on what it does best—apartments.
- Find a niche and fill it. Another reason to go with rental units? The Crown is the only apartment building on the Miami Beach waterfront. This gives APM a distinct advantage in the marketplace.
- Be prepared for surprises. Even though APM had managed the building for decades, the team knew they would find unexpected obstacles hidden behind the walls. So the developer and architect planned from the outset to take the time along the way to develop cost-effective solutions to unexpected situations.