A Classic Miami Beach Hotel Seeks Return to Rat Pack Days
PHOTO: The Carillon Miami Beach is located directly on the beach. (Courtesy of The Carillon Miami Beach)
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack used to call it their Miami Beach home when they played and sang there. Today Carillon Miami Beach is undergoing a rebranding and renovation that aims to transform the hotel into a new luxury hot spot for guests to echo its glory years.
The Carillon also is being turned into a lifestyle brand in its own right, with additional properties under the same name being planned in such locations as Switzerland, the Dominican Republic and possibly New York City.
Opened in 1959, the Carillon was purchased earlier this year and rebranded as the Carillon Miami Beach by Z Capital Partners, an investment company based in Chicago and Zurich. Z Capital also owns three casino gaming companies and the Clift hotel in San Francisco. Canyon Ranch previously managed the Carillon as a hotel, spa and residence.
Z Capital also hired a new management team for the Carillon led by hotel veteran Lester Scott and and plans were launched to recapture the Miami retro-feel and look of the original hotel, with a modern twist. The goal is turn the hotel into a destination resort that can compete with a new wave of high-end properties being developed or refurbished in and around Miami Beach.
These include the famed Fontainebleau, which was renovated in the past five years; the Eden Roc, currently being renovated; the Four Seasons Miami Beach, set to open in 2016; the St. Regis Bal Harbour; and the Faena Hotel Miami Beach, which at press time was still scheduled to open this month.
The Carillon, which has 150 large suites, already has several advantages, including a location directly on the beach and a 70,000-square-foot spa, formerly operated by Canyon Ranch. Now it will get a complete $25 million revamp of its lobby, entrance, pool areas and public spaces over the next year. That will include the hotel’s four pools and terrace next to the beach boardwalk. It also will include the Tambourine Bar & Lounge, where the Rat Pack once gathered. The hotel will remain open throughout the planned renovations.
Scott himself spent the last 10 years with Capella Hotel Group, the luxury hotel management group founded by his mentor and friend, Horst Schulze, former president and CEO of Ritz-Carlton. Most recently, Scott oversaw $1 billion in hotel assets across five properties in China, while simultaneously assisting in the opening and development of new projects.
Scott has already revamped the Carillon’s management team, bringing back many of the old staff and retraining them with a new set of service standards. That new team now includes Michael Choiniere as director of sales and marketing, who previously served in the same role at Shelborne Wyndham Grand in South Beach.
The result is much higher customer satisfaction scores from guests and an occupancy rate that is hovering around 75 percent since Scott took over the property in June. The Carillon also is already rated number two on TripAdvisor in the Miami Beach area.
The Carillon already has a new restaurant called Thyme, which opened Oct. 15. Johann Friedrich “Fritz” Zwahlen joined the resort in June as vice president and executive chef to oversees food and beverage operations at the resort, including the new restaurant. Prior to joining the Carillon, he held various executive roles at the Amanresorts over the last 17 years. Zwahlen’s new eatery features a revamped menu and a new culinary concept marrying Pacific Rim and Caribbean cuisine.
The Carillon also is introducing a new spa that will offer a wide range of treatments, including 270 fitness and wellness programs. It will feature products from Clarins, the skin care provider, and will also have a medical component with doctors and nutritionists on staff to integrate wellness into the spa experience.
In September, the Carillon named Ronel Corbin as executive vice president of health, wellness and spa. Ronel will oversee the growth and strategy of the Spa at the Carillon, at 70,000 square feet the largest luxury wellness spa in South Florida, including top of the line fitness studios and the integrated health and wellness center. Ronel previously served as U.S. senior vice president for U.K.-based ESPA International, overseeing North America and South America.
Beyond Miami Beach, if goes according to plan, the Carillon will be the first in a series of luxury hotels using the same brand. Scott says the company is looking to open a sister property in the Swiss mountain resort of Flims next year. It’s also exploring opening hotels in New York City and possibly the Dominican Republic. The idea is to create a lifestyle spa, wellness and fitness brand that offers a great hotel product and also a residential facility where applicable (the Carillon has more than 500 residences in addition to its 150 hotel suites).
“We will own and operate our own hotels,” says Scott. “We want to grow the brand with our standards. Our goal is to acquire the right assets in the right locations that makes sense.”
More by James Shillinglaw
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