On the tail end of a typical cruise vacation that left Ricardo Tabet in South Beach, the then-New Yorker walked north on Fifth Street and Ocean Drive and into the Park Central Miami Beach in January 2002.
Tabet was escaping winter in New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. “Funny enough it was my birthay and they gave me a beautiful corner room. I put my bag in and I went straight into the ocean and I decided I was moving to Miami,” he said.
Tabet, CEO of Miami-based Optimum Development USA, which is under the Luxembourg-based Optimum Asset Management Group, now owns the Art Deco property and plans to re-open it as the Celino South Beach in the fall after he completes the more than $40 million renovation and expansion of the hotel at 640 Ocean Drive.
Goldman Properties sold the Park Central, the Imperial Hotel, Healthcote Apartments and vacant land to Optimum in July 2013 for a combined $51 million, bringing the developer’s investment to more than $90 million, Tabet said. Altogether, the property has nearly 300 feet of frontage on Ocean Drive.
Optimum broke ground on the project in 2014, records show. Once it’s finished, the new, five-story building will have a glass-bottom pool on the rooftop, visible from the lobby. All four buildings, with 132 guest rooms, 26 suites, three restaurants and bars, plus a pool on the ground level, will be connected.
Highgate will manage the hotel and ICONINK will run the food and beverage operations. After inviting architects from around the country to submit their designs for the project, Tabet said he hired Space4Architecture along with Borges + Associates. Navigate Design is handling interiors.
“In the ’80s when Tony Goldman bought it, he created a mini renaissance on Ocean Drive,” Tabet said. “Ocean Drive really started going down after the downturn. Buildings started deteriorating and no one did anything substantial. Once everything got approved, a lot of other people bought property on the street.”
Investors have been picking up properties along the touristy street at premiums in recent years. Goldman sold the building at 1200 Ocean Drive, home to the Palace gay bar and restaurant, to New York-based Infinity Real Estate for more than $15 million. Infinity also paid $12.4 million for the former Johnny Rockets building at 728 Ocean Drive.
In January, the Miami Beach commission set new standards and guidelines for sidewalk cafes between Fifth and 15th streets, a response to the “tunnel effect” created by hundreds of oversized umbrellas and crowded tables. The owners of the Betsy Hotel recently completed a renovation and expansion of the Art Deco property at 1440 Ocean Drive. Architect Allan Shulman worked on that project, which included adding an “orb” that connects the Betsy’s buildings.
Tabet said he’s catering to a different audience than the average Ocean Drive visitor. “We really tried to shoot for a client between 35 and 65,” he said. “I’m trying to bring tropical class back to Ocean Drive. This property was built in 1937 and it was the highlight of that street.”
Optimum also owns property in North Beach and Brickell, as well as the nearby building at 600 Collins, where the developer plans to break ground on new 27,000-square-foot retail building when his tenants’ leases expire in the summer.