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Fontainebleau, Related Cos. Win Bid To Develop New Miami International Airport Hotel

Miami-Dade County commissioners approved a ground lease for a new hotel at Miami International Airport, bringing a close to a three-year bidding process that will bring the first new hotel to the airport in 60 years.  

The 451-room hotel with Westin branding will be built on a 1.8-acre site at Miami International Airport.

The commission unanimously approved plans for a 451-room hotel with Westin branding on a 1.8-acre site adjacent to a parking garage at the airport. Fontainebleau Development and Related Cos. created a partnership called FDR Miami Hotel LLC to submit the plan and beat out a competing proposal from Parmco Airport Hospitality LLC.

The vote was the culmination of a competitive bidding process that ranked the proposal from FDR higher than the plan submitted by Parmco, a Miami-based development firm led by developer Darryl Parmenter and adviser Paul Lambert created for the airport hotel.

FDR secured a 50-year ground lease for the property as part of the agreement that is expected to bring around $240M in revenue to the county, including $20M in rent payments over the lease’s term, according to an April memo from Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

“Miami’s world-class airport deserves a world-class hotel,” FDR Miami Hotel LLC said in a statement to the Miami Herald after the vote. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the county and airport officials to make the best airport hotel a reality for Miami.”

The planned hotel, designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica, will include two restaurants, a pool with a terrace, event space, a spa, a fitness center and a pedestrian bridge connecting the hotel to the airport’s Concourse D. 

It will become the second hotel at the airport, joining the 60-year-old, 259-room Miami International Airport Hotel. City officials and developers said the project is needed to meet surging demand at the airport, which is also undergoing a $5B upgrade aimed at overhauling the airport’s infrastructure and terminal access. 

Miami International Airport served 50.6 million passengers last year, surpassing a 2019 record of 45.9 million. The airport is ranked first in the country for international freight and ranks second for international passenger traffic, the South Florida Business Journal reported

While county commissioners were united in their decision to grant FDR the ground lease, a second resolution that would have allowed the county to enter into negotiations with Parmco to build a second new airport hotel failed 7-6 Tuesday.

Jonathan Vilma, a Parmco principal, spoke in favor of the resolution at the meeting, calling another hotel a “much-needed” project, according to the Herald. But some commissioners said they preferred to create a separate solicitation process to choose a firm to build another hotel.

Commissioner Danielle Cohen Higgins voted against the proposal, comparing it to a “participation trophy” and Commissioner René Garcia said it would set a “bad precedent” in procurements, according to the Herald. 

Tuesday's approval comes after the county's Airports and Economic Development Committee opted in June to refer the decision to the county commission rather than approve the development from the partnership between Jeffrey Soffer’s Fontainebleau and Related Cos., which is led by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross

The selection process began in 2020 but stalled in December 2022 after Levine Cava, who took office in November 2020, said she planned to redesign the bid requirements that were put forward by the previous administration. Levine Cava’s decision was in response to objections from Parmco and labor unions looking to secure better wages for workers at the property.

The mayor then reversed course on April 7 and rescinded the rejection of bids, saying the approval needed to proceed “expeditiously” to meet growing demand at the airport and address the need for “a new, world-class airport hotel,” the Herald previously reported.

Levine Cava issued a memo on April 10 recommending FDR as the developer for the site.