South Beach makes room for Regent

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When the Regent South Beach opens in July, it will be a unique addition to the trendy Miami Beach neighborhood in a number of ways. First off, although its located on the northern end of the art deco district, the thoroughly modern Regent is a newly built hotel.

The hotel stands where Ocean Drive dead ends into 15th Street. As there is no alley on that stretch of Ocean Drive, as there is for most of its length, the Regent spans the entire east-west block, with facades on both Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue.

The hotel was built on one of the few plots in the historic-preservation district of South Beach where property owners are allowed to construct new buildings. And art deco structures in South Beach may not be demolished, only refurbished, according to Michael Fernandez, Regent South Beachs general manager.

On one side was a parking lot, on the other was a small shopping area, he said. Since we didnt have a pre-existing structure like a condo or a hotel, we didnt have to apply for any variances to the historic- district codes.

The new-build is not period art deco and its not designed as any sort of replica. But it is, according to Fernandez, meant to blend nicely with its tropical surroundings and be a congenial, rather than intrusive, addition to the neighborhood.

Its a contemporary design but one that fits well with traditional art deco, he said.

The four-story structure is dominated by stucco, metal and glass, with gleaming metal railings and large balconies jutting off each of the 80 rooms.

Thick walls between the balconies create an egg-crate impression from the street and insulate the balconies from each other, creating discrete outdoor extensions of the private spaces in the rooms.

The 200-square-foot balcony augments the 485- to 520-square-foot living space inside each unit.

The balconies really allow you to experience South Florida at its best, said Fernandez. I grew up here and thats what its all about, being outdoors.

The spaciousness of the guest rooms is one of the things that distinguishes the Regent from most of the other properties in South Beach, where, according to Fernandez, about 285 to 350 square feet is the norm.

The hotel lobby, retail space (including a Claudio Milano store) and the Table 8 restaurant, a branch of the popular Los Angeles eatery, are located on the ground floor. Rooms start on the second floor and continue to the roof. There are 27 penthouse suites.

Room at the top

The penthouse suites occupy two levels, with spiral staircases connecting lower floors to 700- to 900-foot rooftop terraces furnished with four-person hot tubs, chaise lounges, wet bars, lighting and sound controls and an electronic funshade, a motorized, 20-by-25-foot retractable umbrella. Rooftop terraces are separated by walls, for privacy.

They are very romantic, sexy spots on the roofs, said Fernandez. The views up there are breathtaking. In our sales calls in New York and Los Angeles, thats what everybody was talking about.

Fernandez characterizes the Regent as a step up in elegance from the current standard of most South Beach hotels, comparing his property to the nearby Setai and Ritz-Carlton South Beach resorts.

When one thinks of refinement, the Setai, which is in our competitive set, has had an impact, said Fernandez. [As has] the Ritz-Carlton that opened a few years ago at Lincoln Road and 17th Street, and now the Regent.

These three luxury hotels ... are going to be able to provide a leisure travel experience that will be an exponential increase over what others can offer here.

The Regent South Beach also offers state-of-the-art safety in a hurricane-prone region. The concrete-and-steel structure is the ultimate in hurricane-resistant construction, Fernandez said, outfitted with storm-proof glass throughout.

Its one of the safest buildings in South Florida, he said. If theres a hurricane, Im putting my family in the hotel. Its a tank.

By way of evidence, Fernandez noted that not one of the windows in place at the construction site was broken when Hurricane Wilma hit Miami in October 2005, although damage to other, similar structures was widespread and severe.

Rack rates for the winter-spring season at the Regent South Beach are $650 a night for city suites and $2,200 a night for ocean penthouse suites. Summer-fall rates are $500 a night for city suites and $1,600 a night for an ocean penthouse.

To contact reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].

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