Mandarin Oriental, Swire To Build Miami Hotel

MIAMI? With Mandarin Oriental International Ltd. signing a joint-venture pact to establish a Big Apple property, the Hong Kong-based hotel group now has strategic locations on key points of the United States map: San Francisco, Hawaii, Miami and New York. With the two ?western? properties entrenched and the New York property scheduled for opening in 2003, Mandarin is firmly focused on rapidly establishing its southernmost U.S. property here on Brickell Key Island. The 329-room property, already nine floors in the ground, is a joint venture with Swire Properties, a wholly owned subsidiary of Swire Pacific Ltd., based in Hong Kong and London. Swire Group, a publicly traded, multinational company, serves as the parent corporation. According to Michael Shindler, Mandarin?s vp/development-Americas, the $100 million project is staked 75% by Swire and 25% by the hotel group in a straight market deal via bank financing. Once built, it will be managed by Mandarin. The property is being developed on the waterfront of Brickell Key Island, a 44-acre mixed-use development that has been evolving since Swire acquired the site in the early 1970s. Reached via a four-lane causeway, the island sits approximately 200 yards offshore from Miami?s Brickell Avenue, which serves as the city?s financial district. The master-planned community is composed of luxury condominiums, office space, restaurants and a smattering of retail and service shops, and will encompass approximately a dozen buildings when the development completes its final phases in the next few years. ?We have always had as a part of our master plan a hotel component,? said Stephen Owens, president of Swire Properties. ?For the last 10 years we have entertained discussion and exploratory negotiations with other hoteliers, but we always felt they didn?t bring all that we were wanting in a hotelier to the project, either in terms of the quality level of the product or in terms of their true commitment to the property. By commitment I?m really talking about investment. There are a number of hotel chains that are willing to put a management contract on it and say thank you very much. We wanted someone who was truly committed to the property, who was willing to put substantial equity dollars into it and stay the course with us.? ?Mandarin Oriental and Swire have very similar corporate cultures rooted in Hong Kong,? said J. Megan Kelly, senior vp of Swire Properties. ?We happened to have some mutual relationships with our bank financing, and it all came together in what was a difficult global market. It was a remarkably pleasant undertaking given where we were.? Owens expected the property to dovetail equally well in the overall Brickell Key scheme. The five-star property will be situated among luxury condominiums where units begin at $200,000 and range to $2.5 million, and sales across the board are strong, he said. Owens noted when he called on Mandarin Oriental two-and-a-half years ago in Hong Kong to discuss Brickell Key, it was developing its strategy to grow the hotel group into North America. ?They were looking to complement their San Francisco and London hotels. They hadn?t thought too much about Miami,? said Owens. ?After we talked for awhile, they understood Miami was the gateway to Latin America. They saw a great connection and opportunity.? Shindler concurred, noting that in addition to creating a stronger U.S. presence, Mandarin Oriental eventually plans to migrate to Central and South America, as well as to Canada. While a five-star hotel, the Brickell Key property is being designed as a city resort, with conference and banquet facilities for up to 650 people, and a 24-hour business center. A full-service spa will complement a health club and outdoor swimming pool. Other features will include a 200-seat signature restaurant, lobby lounge and cocktail bar with cigar lounge. Veteran hotelier Jorge Gonzales will serve as general manager when the property opens. ?One of the