Update: The SLS Hotel at South Beach —formerly known as the SLS Miami Hotel—has certainly had its share of setbacks in its bid to emerge as Miami Beach’s most prestigious oceanfront destination, however the hotel now appears to be well on its way to a Spring 2012 opening. After weathering one of the most severe economic downturns in Miami real estate history, the iconic Ritz Plaza is progressing towards fruition as the SLS at South Beach Hotel.
Ten new luxury pool-side bungalow suites will be added to the hotel’s current 132 rooms. Accessory retail and restaurant space will also include The Bazaar, a Spanish-influenced restaurant from Chef José Andrés, as well as the Japanese-inspired Katsuya by Starck (Philippe Starck, that is) with its adjacent Dragon Room lounge. Nightlife will be provided by the hotel’s Hyde Beach Lounge which is “modeled after the best beach-side destinations of the Mediterranean Riviera.” Philippe Starck will also produce the Blowout Bar.
The most recent delay in the hotel’s progress came when SLS South Beach Hotel’s design vision for a secluded VIP hideaway surrounding the pool area slammed up against the City of Miami Beach’s desire to maintain the decidedly iconic presence of the historic Ritz Plaza hotel.
To quote the City…
“…together with the Delano and the National Hotel, the Ritz Plaza is one of the three important buildings defining the eastern terminus of 17th Street.
The round ended east pedestal portion of the structure defines a double height ballroom / dining room and connects with the double height lobby of the main structure; each of these public interior areas is architecturally significant and possesses a high degree of historic integrity.”
The actual dispute came down to the height of SLS South Beach Hotel’s proposed 8-foot high fence and hedge along 17th Street designed to block the raised pool area from public view. (See opening photo) City code sets out a height limit several feet less than what SLS South Beach was requesting.
Another disagreement arose over exactly how the SLS South Beach will be identified to the public through its exterior signage. SLS is proposing major signage on the west and south elevations at the parapet level, as well as a street level “SLS at South Beach” signs viewable from Collins Avenue.
Regardless how these minor questions are resolved, the SLS at South Beach Hotel / Ritz Plaza is destined for stardom on the Miami Beach social scene. When the hotel first opened in 1940, its 12-story streamlined design combined with an oceanfront location one block from Lincoln Road made it an immediate hit with wealthy travelers. We predict the same will again hold true the instant SLS South Beach opens its doors.
The SLS South Beach’s Ritz Plaza hotel stands at 1701 Collins Avenue and was designed by famed Miami Beach architect L. Murray Dixon in 1940. The hotel was originally named “Grossinger Beach Hotel” to distinguish it from its parent, “Grossinger’s,” an esteemed resort of the day in the Catskills.
The hotel’s soaring two-story lobby and walls emblazoned with murals depicting Miami’s then current status as gateway to the Caribbean and South America propelled Grossinger’s into a class occupied only by a few of its neighbors such as the National and the Raleigh hotels.
During World War II Grossinger’s was used as a barracks for officers of the Air Training Command, and after the war, the hotel emerged as the Ritz Plaza.
The Ritz Plaza was purchased and renovated in 1989 by Ignacio Contreras. Starwood Hotels initially intended to build a W Hotel on the location, however, problems in the form of lawsuits from the neighboring Delano Hotel stopped the project and the Ritz Plaza was then sold to its current owner, 29-year old club mogul and movie producer Sam Nazarian in 2004.
Photo credit: SLS Hotels