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Development Blooms Again in Miami Beach

MIAMI, Fla. (MainStreet) -- On a Monday morning in Miami Beach the sidewalks swell with the party crowd as the noise of bulldozers and cranes fills the air along Collins Boulevard like a techno soundtrack. Building sites are covered with glossy new ads of real estate developments to come, replacing the ripped and torn ones that -- much like the projects they promoted -- didn't make it through the worst real estate slump in recent history. But that was then, and now Miami rises again with bold hotel and condo projects that look to take advantage of a strong tourism demand and steady stream of buyers from South America.

According to STR, Miami has shown one of the strongest increases in revenue per available room in the country for the first two months of 2012, with year-over-year room rates up 15.8%, to $148.71. A respite in hotel openings in recent years saw many ambitious hotel projects, such as the Cipriani, come to a standstill, and left historic buildings such as The Saxony in dusty concrete surrounded by chain-link fence.

Miami is building again, including at the former Ritz Plaza, putting up bold hotel and condo projects on renewed strength in tourism and a steady stream of South American buyers.

For the former Cipriani, better days are indeed on their way; an ambitious project unfolds by Buenos Aires fashion-designer-turned-hotelier Alan Faena, who's ridden a less-than-direct wave to success with his Faena Hotel + Universe -- a top hotel draw in the Argentine capital. Despite his own real estate missteps, including a scrapped Rio property that ultimately became Fasano Hotel Rio, Faena is a master of reinvention. His work includes a $350 million revamp of this Art Deco waterfront palace rebranded as Faena Saxony Hotel.

In lieu of a canopy of cranes, only the perimeter of the hotel shows sign of a name change, with its colorful graphic windscreen gripping a chain-link fence around the building like a fashionable belt. All proposals for the Faena Saxony Hotel are in the development phase, but plans submitted to the city include a glamorous condo tower by Foster + Partners that puts a retro nautical spin on a tapered midrise structure that would be suspended over a living water garden. Given the strong demand by South American buyers in today's resurgent Miami condo market, the name Faena would add even more allure.

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