In general, I prefer low-key, smaller hotels, tranquil and secluded places that possess traditional virtues and are indifferent to the dictates of fashion. But every so often I find myself admiring a place that in most respects is the opposite of my customary template. Not long ago, I stayed at the glitzy Baccarat Hotel in Manhattan and was unexpectedly impressed. And on a previous visit to Florida, I was surprised greatly to enjoy my visit to the flamboyant Acqualina, resort in Sunny Isles Beach, near Fort Lauderdale. Now it is the turn of the new Faena Hotel in Miami Beach.
South Beach is generally reckoned to end at 23rd Street, with the area immediately to the north, Mid-Beach, extending as far as 63rd Street. The preservation and regeneration of South Beach began in 1979, when one square mile, with its striking art deco buildings, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, South Beach is essentially a finished project. However, Mid-Beach remains relatively scruffy, despite the recent renovation of the iconic Fontainebleau hotel and the arrival of the Soho Beach House at 43rd and Collins. But the times are changing fast and nowhere more so than in the stretch between 32nd and 36th streets, now known as the Faena Art District.
Alan Faena is a 52-year-old Argentine hotelier and real estate developer, who made his first fortune as a fashion entrepreneur. Having sold his company, Via Vai, in 1995, he went into partnership with architect Norman Foster, designer Philippe Starck and Ukrainian-born billionaire investor Leonard Blavatnik, to redevelop the Puerto Madero docklands district in Buenos Aires. There, the Faena Hotel opened in 2004; the Faena Arts Center, housed within a former flour warehouse, debuted in 2011. Faena next turned his attention to a $1 billion development in Miami Beach, where work began on a condominium tower, Faena House, designed by Foster + Partners, in 2013. This is now complete. The 12,500-square-foot penthouse sold for $60 million in September 2015, setting a new record for Miami residential real estate, and the building’s residents now include Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs.