Developer bets on Vib Miami to anchor tract, energize neighborhood

The vibe is good at Best Western International these days. The once-upon-a-time, single-branded hotel operator now has a quiver loaded with six brands, none more highly anticipated than Vīb, Best Western’s lifestyle entry that is slated to make its debut in Miami next year.

Richard Meruelo of Rebuild Miami-Edgewater is banking on the new brand to be the revenue-generating anchor of a 7.5-acre tract of land his group acquired early last year at the northwest corner of Northeast 17th Street and Northeast Second Ave., in what is now colloquially called Miami’s “Design District.”

Reports at the time said Meruelo paid $64 million for the land, inclusive of $34 million of seller financing. His idea behind choosing Vīb, he said, was all about energizing the development from the start.

For its part, the Vīb brand, in Meruelo’s estimation, fits Miami and the site to a t. “They have the product for our market,” Meruelo said. “It’s like whoever was designing Vīb was thinking of Miami.”Meruelo opted for a brand rather than going the independent route more for security than anything else. “This is the keystone piece of land that cost me a lot. It cannot fail,” he said. While admitting that strong markets, like Miami, often don’t need brands, they do help at the time of sale—when that comes. “People usually pay more for branded stuff in Miami,” Meruelo said.

The Expectation
The property will be set on a corner of the parcel and have 200 rooms over 10 floors. Going 10 floors is about double the height of the Vīb prototype, while the 200 rooms are 88 rooms more than the prototype, according to Ron Pohl, Best Western’s SVP of brand management & member services. All in, Meruelo tagged the project at $100,000 per key. The hotel, close to Miami Beach, will have water views, do in part to the modification of the prototype. “Everything around us is high rise, so we wanted to stick out, but also blend in,” Meruelo said.

In order to stick out, Meruelo envisions the hotel being the catalyst of the site, but beyond that, a pacesetter for the burgeoning neighborhood. The hotel’s design will do everything it can to deliver on Meruelo’s vision. The exterior, specifically at the lobby level, is transparent, composed of glass, giving passerby a direct view inside. This high visibility is a way to deliver the feeling of excitement from the inside out. The highly exposed public spaces are also part of Meruelo’s strategy of keeping them occupied. “We want to get people out of their rooms,” he said. “We don’t themholed up in their rooms.”

A running design trend in the lifestyle space calls for smaller and more succinct rooms with activated public spaces. “It’s European design coming to America,” Pohl said, adding that rooms will be devoid of clutter with virtually no furniture in the room other than the bed and chair. “That’s the new trend: Lots of energy in the public spaces. No one wants to spend time in his or her room anymore, and that’s not age specific, either.”

Vīb rooms will be 200 square feet, rather than the more standard 300 square feet. Pohl added that though Vīb is designed for the upper-midscale space, he thinks it will tip higher. Meruelo believes Vīb Miami will be an alternative to the pricier hotels in South Beach, such as the W and SLS, which he mentioned.

“When the city is full, the marginal rate for last room is high,” he said. “We want to foster a repeat clientele. We are going to try and stay more accessible.”F&B will include grab-n-go stations serving food (locally inspired) and coffee, while other elements call for a bar and a 700-square-foot Zen zone with gaming pods. A fitness center will also be available. Construction on Vīb Miami is scheduled to get underway in November, with a build-out of 12 months, allowing the hotel to be open by next year’s Art Basel.

What's to Come
In addition to Miami, a Vīb hotel in Chicago is next in line, along with a Vīb hotel in Seoul. Other potential markets being explored include New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and New Orleans. There is also talk of a second Vīb hotel in Seoul, an airport location in Sydney and potential of a project in the Philippines. Mike Muir, VP of North American development for Best Western, said the lifestyle space is gaining affinity from the development community and customers, alike. “Since everyone likes it, the cities want it,” he said. “It helps their communities diversify. You’ll see Vīb in markets with strong demand generators, and in secondary markets, including college towns. As long as there is good foot traffic you can make it.”