Why Sandor Scher Loves 'Old Things'
Sandor Scher owns “old things.” He's got a 1986 Mercedes 560SL, a 1940 ULH Harley Davidson Flathead and a Little White House. It's that last item that's garnered Sandor an award from Dade Heritage Trust for his love of—or more specifically, preservation of—old things.
Last week, Sandor of Claro Development was honored by the organization for his work on preserving 241 28th St, a small circa-1930's house that stands out along A1A's beachfront condo towers and modern buildings, and converting it into a contemporary small apartment building. That's just the latest of Sandor's preservation efforts. His firm, with partner Ray Lastra, is the go-to for many historic hotel owners who want to turn 20th-century Collins Avenue relics into modern luxury hotels without losing their soul to modernity.
Sandor forged his career as a developer in NYC working with the Cosi restaurant chain. But it was love that brought him to Miami (he and his now-wife, Stephanie, have three children), and with that a career change into the hospitality industry. Owner of The Standard Hotel in Miami, Andre Balaz, tapped Sandor to renovate The Standard on Ocean Drive into a first-rate boutique, including a Turkish spa. From there, Claro Development was off and running and has been involved in such renovation projects as SoHo Beach House, Shelborne Miami, The Peter Miller Hotel and The Raleigh Hotel.
We met up with Sandor at The Raleigh, which is about to undergo yet another major renovation with the latest owners (who include David Pisor and Tommy Hilfiger--yes, that Hilfiger). The plan, Sandor says, is to harken back to the “glamour and heyday of Miami Beach in the 1940s." But with modern luxuries, of course, such as rooftop spa and a executive club membership program. As for the pool, designed originally to look like Sir Walter Raleigh's crest? “We won't touch the pool,” he says, staying true to preserving old things.
When it comes to historic renovations, Sandor calls it “a little bit of a black art,” saying that he “peels back and looks at the DNA” of a property to see what belongs and what doesn't. At times, that could mean properties will get a complete makeover that razes all but the necessary bones. For instance, Claro is redeveloping The Greystone for Vos Hospitality (above). Doing so, Claro is preserving the facade of the building while razing everything behind it, a sort of Face/Off for hotels.
“I have an appreciation for where we come from, and I think that the past does inform our future,” Sandor says, showing us the current renovation work of The Lennox Hotel (formerly The Peter Miller). He says his philosophy is to capture the character and scale of a property, but also—and as he says, most importantly—become part of the local community. “If a hotel can truly ingrain itself in a community that it's in, that's truly the hallmark of a hotel. You're not just building a hotel for someone who comes to Miami and wants a place to stay. It's got to be for the community as well. That is one of my guiding principles.”
Sandor also is gambling on a major renovation of his own. He's attempting to convince the Miami Beach City Commission to approve an Ocean Terrace overlay, zoning for a block of aging retail and hotel properties, to allow for maximum heights of 235 feet for residential and 125 feet for hotel development on the site of his proposed Ocean Terrace project. The overlay is one component of a revamped Ocean Terrace Redevelopment Plan aimed at bringing a mixed-use development to activate the area, while preserving the historic Broadmoor and Ocean Surf Hotels and maintaining the scale and massing of buildings on Collins Avenue and Ocean Terrace. The commission is set to vote on his proposal on May 11.