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Insider: Miami Hotels | 2001

José Molena

Photo: José Molena

It took visionary hoteliers like Chris Blackwell and Ian Schrager to divine the potential behind the gritty early-nineties façade of Miami's South Beach. Now, in what can only be called the bandwagon effect, everyone wants to get in on the act, from family-friendly giants such as Loews to blue-chip chains like Ritz-Carlton. The thrill is gone, sigh many of the party animals who pioneered SoBe. But you can't prove it by the 1.25 million visitors who spent the night last year. Whassup, Miami?The city's latest hotels tell the story.

SHORE THING
People walking down Collins Avenue recently swore they heard cannon fire. In fact, it was the $150 million Shore Club gearing up — and declaring war on the Delano.

With the arrival of Philip Pilevsky's full-blown resort aimed at the witheringly hip, the playing field dominated by Ian Schrager's Delano since 1995 is suddenly feeling crowded. That the two principals go way back has made their battle SoBe's favorite new spectator sport. Pilevsky, a developer whose real estate portfolio tops $1 billion, was Schrager's landlord at Studio 54, and a partner in his Paramount, Royalton, and Morgan hotels.

So how does the upstart measure up?The five-acre oceanfront property combines two Art Deco hotels with a new 21-story tower by architect David Chipperfield. "One lesson we've learned from the boutique-hotel explosion is that design can be tiring," Chipperfield notes. But if minimalism is dead, as Faith Popcorn types are saying, no one has told Chipperfield. The 325 rooms are chaste essays in white plaster, Mexican sandstone, and angular teak-frame furniture (the most desirable accommodations are the eight poolside villas). Fiber optics wash the lobby in green light one moment, red the next. The Tower Bar features a backlit fiberglass wall and a concrete bar.

Pilevsky says no hotel can match the cast he's assembled for star power. Robert De Niro has a branch of Nobu restaurant. Reformed model Christy Turlington commands the Sundãri Spa. Alfresco lounging alcoves with fireplaces are by landscape architect Miranda Brooks. Also on board are an Oribe salon, a Me & Ro jewelry shop, and a Scoop fashion boutique.

While acknowledging that a certain hotel down the street helped make his own possible, Pilevsky says the Shore Club is a "totally unique" product: "For example, one thing we are not is Disneyland for adults." 1901 Collins Ave.; 305/695-3100, fax 305/695-3299; doubles from $525.

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