Jeffrey Soffer wants to build a new garage at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, with top-floor ballrooms.
The proposed garage will be strictly for employees, which means hotel guests will continue to valet at the entrance of the storied resort.
Miami Beach’s land use committee on Thursday recommended the project after hearing details about the new structure, which would be built on an existing surface employee lot on Collins Avenue between 43rd and 44th streets. The new building would connect to the existing hotel property via an elevated pedestrian bridge 27 feet above the street.
The garage, which went from having 500 spaces to 400 spaces, would also include new ballrooms on the top floor so the Fontainebleau Miami Beach can better compete with other South Florida resorts such as Trump National Doral Miami for conventions and corporate events, said Mickey Marrero, a lawyer representing Soffer’s Fontainebleau Florida Hotel LLC.
“The initial primary goal was to address an operational need,” Marrero told the committee. “We are very low in ballroom space and meeting room space. We are losing business to competitors throughout South Florida.”
At the same time, Fontainebleau Miami Beach would no longer request the city of Miami Beach subsidize the cost of employee parking in municipal garages near the hotel, Marrero said.
That appealed to Commissioner Ricky Arriola, one of the committee members. “It will address issues I have with the city subsidizing the largest employer in the city for their own employee parking,” Arriola said. “Getting those employees in their privately owned garage I think is a big win for us.”
The proposal presented to the committee differs from when the Fontainebleau Miami Beach first initiated discussions with city officials about a new garage and pedestrian bridge six months ago. According to a September 2019 city memo, valet traffic was going to be moved off the resort to the garage.
That is no longer the case. “Anyone who comes to the hotel will be coming through the main drop-off,” Marrero said. “No one will be dropped off at the new location.”
Project architect Don Wolfe showed committee members preliminary sketches and a rendering that depicts a boxy building with an all glass facade with a pedestrian bridge that also features all glass walls. “It is a very minimalistic modern piece of architecture,” Wolfe said.
The development site is about one block south of the iconic, Morris Lapidus-designed hotel, and is directly adjacent to Soho Beach House and Four Points By Sheraton Miami Beach.
Miami-Dade property records show Fontainebleau Florida Hotel LLC purchased the five parcels that make up the surface lot in 2005 for $13 million. – Francisco Alvarado