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Abandoned Miami hospital gets third life as waterfront condo development

Multifamily Housing

Abandoned Miami hospital gets third life as waterfront condo development

The 1920s King Cole Hotel becomes the Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami in the largest residential adaptive reuse project in South Florida.

By Mike Plotnick, Contributing Editor | January 20, 2021
Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami adaptive reuse of King Cole Hotel Photo Kim Sargent

The Ritz-Carlton Residences sits on a 36-slip private marina in Miami Beach, Fla. The project team for Lionheart Capital’s 111-condominium community was led by Stantec (AOR). Residences are priced from $2 million to $40 million. Photo: Kim Sargent


In the 1920s, the King Cole Hotel helped put Miami Beach on the map as a popular tourist destination. Automotive industry pioneer and entrepreneur Carl Fisher developed the three-story, 60-room hotel to fulfill his vision of turning vacant land into an oceanfront winter getaway.

The hotel, which functioned as a military hospital during World War II, faced the wrecking ball in 1965 to make way for the property’s next occupant: the Miami Heart Institute. Over the next three decades, the hospital expanded its footprint on the 7.2-acre site to encompass six structures.

In 2000, Mount Sinai Medical Center acquired the Miami Heart Institute and ultimately consolidated its operations at the competing hospital system’s main campus about a mile away.

Real estate investment and development firm Lionheart Capital stepped in to purchase the deserted complex for $20 million in 2012, initiating the property’s third act as a luxury condo development. “It was a fair price, in an excellent location, and we felt confident we could transform the property into something truly special,” said Allison Greenfield, Partner at Lionheart Capital.


Art Studio at the Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami adaptive reuse of King Cole Hotel - Multifamily Design+Construction Photo Kim Sargent

Residents have 24-hour access to a private art studio equipped with easels, sculpting surfaces, reference books, and supplies. Photo: Kim Sargent


But Lionheart faced some tough obstacles in converting the former hospital into condos—and starting from scratch wasn’t an option. “The site was overbuilt by about 600,000 square feet, so we would lose that space if we demolished the buildings,” said Greenfield. Rezoning the property to residential use would also limit the maximum building height of new construction to four stories. 

Lionheart enlisted Stantec’s Miami practice to oversee the conversion process as architect of record. “The city was eager to approve the zoning change as long as the neighbors were in favor of it,” said Christina Villa, Senior Associate in Stantec’s Miami office. 


ALSO SEE: Historic ‘skyscraper hospital’ in Brooklyn refashioned into 17 luxury condominium residences


Stantec staff met with residents of the surrounding Mid-Beach neighborhood, composed of single-family homes that range from historic 1920s structures to modern residences. “Most of the neighbors were ecstatic to hear that we were planning a condo development because it would decrease traffic and be more compatible with the neighborhood,” said Villa. 

The intricate planning and design process involved reconfiguring the existing institutional building layouts to accommodate high-end residential units. “We stripped away everything that made the complex look like a hospital and brought it down to its bare columns, then started to carve out the massing of the buildings to make the floor plates work,” said Villa.  

The process yielded a staggering 64 different unit layouts. “Unlike a typical South Florida multifamily building, where buyers choose a view and a stock layout, we essentially created 64 vertically stacked single-family homes,” said Greenfield. 


Club Room Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami adaptive reuse of King Cole Hotel - Multifamily Design+Construction Photo Kim Sargent

The club room at the Ritz-Carlton Residences. Residents have access to the services of the Agatston Center for Private Medicine, led by Arthur Agatston, the cardiologist who created the South Beach Diet. Photo: Kim Sargent


Because the slabs between adjoining buildings did not align, the Stantec team planned each unit within the floor plates of its original structure, then created several new elevator lobbies that would transport residents directly up to their units. 

The lower levels of the former hospital featured floor-to-floor heights of 12 to 14 feet, providing opportunities to create one-of-a-kind living spaces. “The price point for those lower floors is much higher than you would typically find in a condo tower because the units are so spectacular,” said Greenfield.


Miami's Ritz-Carlton Residences feature EUROPEAN ELEGANCE, MODERNIST AESTHETIC

To achieve its goals of establishing a European modernist design aesthetic, Lionheart engaged Italian architect and industrial designer Piero Lissoni as design architect. It was the first large-scale building project in the U.S. for the founder of Lissoni & Partners, an architecture and design studio with offices in Milan and New York. 

Likening the property to “a new, small Portofino town,” Lissoni focused his attention on the building forms, façades, and public spaces. He also collaborated with Italian product designer Boffi to custom design the European-style kitchens and bathrooms in each unit.   

When visitors enter the double-height main lobby, they have no clue they’re stepping into an environment that formerly housed an emergency department and surgical suites. Instead, they’re likely to be awed by the ironclad floating spiral staircase that anchors the space and the floor-to-ceiling glass wall that accentuates views of the adjacent private lake.


Lobby at the Ritz-Carlton Residences Miami adaptive reuse of King Cole Hotel - Multifamily Design+Construction Photo Kim Sargent

A floating spiral staircase marks the double-height main lobby, designed by architect Piero Lissoni, whose goal was to create the effect of a small fishing village in his native Italy. Photo: Kim Sargent



The 678,000-sf Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach houses 111 condos that range in size from 2,000 sf to more than 10,000 sf and are priced from $2 million to $40 million. Also available for purchase are nine guest suites that function like hotel rooms and are positioned around an outdoor meditation garden. With the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns and work-from-home mandates, a few residents opted to convert these suites into private office environments. 

Other outdoor amenity areas include a walking track that circumnavigates the property and a half-acre rooftop pool deck with private cabanas. Located atop the former hospital’s main parking structure, the expansive space offers panoramic vistas of the Atlantic Ocean, Biscayne Bay, and downtown Miami.  


ALSO SEE: Designing multifamily housing for COVID-19


Residents can grow and pick their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the ecological food forest and community garden. They can even take advantage of a medical concierge service offered by the Agatston Center for Private Medicine, led by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, creator of the South Beach Diet.

A 36-slip private marina and captained day yacht on the neighboring Surprise Lake further distinguish the property from the region’s many other condo developments. Phase two, currently under construction, will add 15 single-family custom villas.

Since opening in February, the development is nearly sold out and has attracted an uncharacteristically large number of Florida-based residents. “I think it appeals to local buyers who may be leaving their house, but still want to maintain the individuality and specialness of their home environment,” said Greenfield. “The site is located in a beautiful, bucolic neighborhood that is perfect for those who really enjoy the South Florida lifestyle, and not just the weather.” 


Photo of Historic King Cole hotel miami

A postcard of the King Cole Hotel, built in 1920 by automotive industrialist Carl Fisher. The hotel was later converted to a hospital before being transitioned into residential use. Photo courtesy Stantec



DEVELOPER Lionheart Capital 





MEP ENGINEER Steven Feller, PE 

BUILDING ENVELOPE CONSULTANT Paramount Consulting and Engineering

LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT Rhett Roy Landscape Architecture Planning 


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