MIAMI BEACH -- With a $3 million renovation behind it and coveted
membership in the Preferred Hotels and Resorts Worldwide consortium
framing its future, South Beach's National Hotel has all the clout
it needs to go up against the big guys while maintaining the allure
"It's always a battle with the flags as an independent," said
the hotel's general manager, Jeff Lehman. "But there is always a
market that prefers an independent hotel.
"The upscale, entrepreneurial client is reluctant to stay in a
chain. People like to find a hotel, feel like they found it and
it's their place."
Designed by architect Roy France, the 151-room National Hotel
opened in 1940. The Krause family, which also owns the Palms Hotel
in South Beach, purchased it in 1996.
As the art-deco district's newfound celebrity was transforming the
neighborhood, the National Hotel cut itself a niche by holding to
the traditional values of South Beach while undergoing a major
renovation in 1997.
"[The Krauses] said, 'This is going to be true [to the
traditional art-deco style],' " said Lehman. "Instead of
renovation, it became a restoration."
That $17 million restoration was directed by architect Gail
Baldwin and interior designer Colleen Lake. It earned a Hall of
Fame Award from the Miami Design Preservation League, and the Dade
Heritage Trust Preservation Award for Excellence in Art Deco
"We were not trying to be slick and cool," said Lehman. "We were
trying to create a great, classic hospitality. That's what the
National has done. That's what it's known for."
But in the following years, with chains like Ritz-Carlton,
Marriott, Crowne Plaza and Loews moving in to partake of the South
Beach boom, the National was challenged even more to find a strong
niche for itself and maintain visibility among a crowd of
"We realized we had to develop a very high-end product, even
higher than we opened with," Lehman said.
It was the decision to shoot for membership in the exclusive
Preferred Hotels consortium that sent the Krauses back to the
drawing board for the latest, $3 million renovation, this time
under the recommendations of Preferred Hotels.
To qualify for the brand of Preferred Hotels & Resorts
Worldwide, a hotel must live up to a quality-assurance program that
includes anonymous, annual, third-party audits based on a list of
1,600 standards and practices.
"It's a group of independent hotels that competes with Four
Seasons, Ritz-Carlton or Fairmont," said Lehman.
The highlight of the 2003 renovation was the addition of a
three-floor penthouse suite called the Triplex.
Patrick Kennedy, who designed the interior of the National's
sister property, the Palms, led the remodeling of the
The result is a three-bedroom, three-story living space
beginning on the 11th floor, which is the top floor of the hotel's
main tower, and extending up into the two floors of the penthouse
Two of the bedrooms are on the 11th floor. The 12th floor houses
a living room, dining room, office, bathroom and a full kitchen,
with all Jenair appliances. The living room has a 50-inch,
plasma-screen TV with surround-sound speakers built into the
The third floor of the Triplex is a junior suite in itself. It
includes the master bedroom, a living room and a wet bar.
The master bedroom also has a surround-sound TV system with a
screen mounted on a bracket so it can be turned for viewing from
The lower bedrooms and the second-floor living room have city
views. The top floor has an ocean view with waist-to-ceiling
windows and a telescope.
Hotel guest rooms also were redone. They now offer 27-inch,
flat-screen TVs with DVD players and VCRs, two phones and free
high-speed Internet access.
City View rooms begin at $380 a night through May 30, then drop
to $270 for the summer months. Ocean Front rooms begin at $430
($300 in summer). Cabana Wing rooms begin at $480 ($350 in
Suites range from $800 for a one-bedroom to $3,000 for the
three-bedroom penthouse suite. Summer rates apply for suites, as
All prices are per person, double occupancy. Bookings are
commissionable at 10%. For reservations and information, call (800)
327-8370 or visit www.nationalhotel.com.
To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].