Lifestyle brand B debuts in Fort Lauderdale

By Jeri Clausing
B OceanFORT LAUDERDALE -- This South Florida beach city has had no shortage of hotel openings in recent years. But what made the grand opening of its newest arrival, the B Ocean, stand out was that it also marked the debut of one of the country's newest lifestyle brands.

Developed in a building that once housed a Holiday Inn, the flagship of B Hotels & Resorts was created by industry veteran Christopher Tompkins and real estate investor Ayelet Weinstein. Although no other B properties are in the works, Tompkins said the brand is looking for conversion opportunities and has seen interest.

"We have actually turned down several because they were not the right fit," he said.

The first thing B will be looking at, he said, is the destination. "Then we look at the actual physical property," Tompkins said. "See how that fits into the destination and if there is an opportunity to capitalize on that."

Tompkins said the brand is looking for opportunities for hotels and resorts in all key U.S. markets, and he added that he is confident the brand will be announcing new projects soon.

"We feel very confident you will be hearing of things in the future," he said.

The Fort Lauderdale property was developed at the north end of the strip of hotels that lines the ocean, bringing upscale lodging to a corner that was long neglected.

Among some 700 guests who were on hand for a grand opening celebration at the end of March was Mayor Jack Seiler. He thanked the developers for bringing new life to the property, which sports a vintage South Beach feel thanks to its white decor with blue accents.

B Ocean lobbyThe hotel actually opened in late January, and Tompkins said business has been good for "a new brand and a brand-new hotel. We could not be more pleased at our ability to drive demand."

Rates at the property range from $179 for regular rooms to $349 for suites.

Because the 240-room hotel is a conversion that uses the basic footprint of the Holiday Inn, it has some old-hotel drawbacks, such as a small swimming pool and pool area, small bathrooms and a closet-size fitness center.

But the developers have made the most of the space available, adding a pool bar and a few small, cabana-style pool beds.

In the rooms, which all have floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the beach, the hotel has added a smoked-glass window between the bedroom area and the bathroom to bring in natural light.

The closets have mirrored doors, and the placement of a long, white desk in front of those closets makes the space versatile. It can be used as a dressing and makeup table or a workspace, even as a comfortable place to eat with a view of the large, flat-screen TV.

In following the lifestyle trend of adding personality and fun, a large, stuffed sea turtle sits on the bed. The snack box offers an interesting variety of options, from cotton candy to granola, each for the reasonable price (by minibar standards) of $5.

One of the best parts of the hotel is its dining options. The food is very good and fairly priced. One of the brand's signatures will be its B'stro, which offers a takeout market as well as sit-down dining and a nice wine election. The other is SAIA, which offers sushi and Asian dishes.
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