UPDATED May 26, 12:05 p.m.: Ten months after a fire shut down the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach, followed by water damage caused Hurricane Irma, city leaders want to force the owners of the historic Miami Modern-style building to speed up renovations and repairs.
The city commission’s land use committee this week directed Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales to devise an aggressive action plan — including the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the owners — geared to save the Deauville, a 540-room hotel at 6701 Collins Avenue, from further deterioration. The resort, designed by noted local architect Melvin Grossman, is located about five blocks south of the massive Ocean Terrace redevelopment site in the city’s North Beach neighborhood. Morales would have to present the plan at the city commission’s next meeting on June 6.
“I would like to direct staff to aggressively pursue some action against the Deauville [owners] beyond what we are already doing,” said commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez during the committee discussion. “I want to file a lawsuit against the Deauville…My goal is to get the hotel up and running.”
The city attorney’s office is already taking steps to initiate demolition by neglect proceedings against Deauville owners Richard, Belinda and Homero Meruelo which would allow the city to file for a court injunction forcing them to repair the property. If they refuse, Miami Beach could be allowed to enter the property, fix it and send the bill to the Meruelos.
Commissioner Michael Gongora suggested the Meruelos are purposely allowing the Deauville to remain in a state of disrepair. “Quite frankly, I think they are playing games with the city,” Gongora said. “They do the bare minimum. I believe we can actually go in, do the work and then lien them for it.”
The Meruelos and their representatives were not present at the land use committee meeting, but North Beach developer Matis Cohen came to their defense. “The owners were very frustrated about jumping through hoops to get permits,” Cohen said. “The city can take an active role by having the city manager meet with these property owners and find a way to get this hotel back online. Let’s exhaust every possible thing we can do administratively.”
Rosen Gonzalez said the Meruelos have been stalling the city for too long. “We were here the month before with the owners,” she said. “It shouldn’t be rolling over month to month. It’s not just the hotel, but the entire neighborhood that is being allowed to deteriorate.”
Richard Meruelo said his family has faced numerous delays because they had not been able to obtain permits for electrical work until last month, as well as additional work required by FPL to get the property’s power back online.
“We are surprised by the city’s latest action,” Meruelo said. “We have been working with city staff on a weekly basis to get the power back on. We won’t know the extent of the damage to the Deauville until we have power.”
He added his family wants to reopen as soon as possible. “We understand the city’s frustration,” Meruelo said. “The Deauville is a significant hotel in North Beach and it being closed has affected the neighborhood.”
Completed in 1957, the Deauville holds a significant place in Miami Beach architectural lore. The hotel’s two-story ballroom space was used for the 1964 taping of the Ed Sullivan show that featured The Beatles. The facade features an elongated honey-comb pattern of ornamental hollow clay blocks to form a distinctive screen. Another notable building feature is the dramatic porte-cochere, consisting of sweeping. intersecting parabolic curves, as well as stepped horizontal planes rising from the street to the second floor lobby entrance.
Miami-Dade property records show the Meruelos purchased the hotel in 2004 for $4 million through their company Deauville Associates Inc. In July of last year, an electrical fire forced the Meruelos to shut off power in the hotel and relocate 800 guests. According to a WPLG report, the fire was caused by a faulty air conditioner chiller that was installed without permits. The Deauville has remained closed every since.
At the land use committee’s April 4 meeting, Deauville general manager Melissa Meruelo said the hotel sustained water damage due to flooding when Hurricane Irma hit South Florida last September. “We are moving as fast as possible,” Meruelo said. “Right now, we don’t have any information on the safety of the structure. We still don’t have electrical power. We just got our permit. We can’t start the full renovation without full power.”
According to a March 7 lawsuit filed against Deauville Associates in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, the hotel owners hired Texas-based general contractor Cotton Commercial USA to repair the damage caused by Irma. But after entering into an agreement on Oct. 5, 2017, Deauville failed to make an initial deposit of $250,000 within 10 days of work commencing, Cotton Commercial alleges.
Cotton Commercial ceased work on Oct. 29 and sent an invoice to Deauville for $845,641 in repairs. The construction firm alleges Deauville refuses to endorse a check an insurance carrier made payable to Cotton Commercial and the hotel. Deauville denied the allegations in court documents.