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69-STORY HILTON TOWER IS PLANNED DOWNTOWN
Saturday, June 26, 1982
by JAMES RUSSELL Herald Financial Editor
A glass-enclosed 69-story tower with 529 condominium apartments and 500 Hilton hotel rooms is planned just off Biscayne Boulevard alongside the historic Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.
Details of the $170-million project, scheduled to start in early 1983 and be completed in late 1985, were disclosed Friday by developer Ronald Fine.
Fine said Hilton International Corp. is a 25 per cent partner in the undertaking and the Bank of America is providing a $140-million construction loan to finance it.
The plan is to pay off the loan with money earned from sale of the apartments, many of which the joint-venture partners expect to sell to corporations and luxury buyers in other countries.
"We'll be marketing this in leading business and commercial centers all over the world," Fine said. "We are building a condominium project on top of a hotel. We just put the two together, and they will be managed together by the Hilton organization."
The unoccupied Freedom Tower , built in 1924 and formerly used for 30 years by The Miami News, is to be restored and turned into a showplace of Miami's past and future and a business conference center.
Plans for the over-all project, to be called Freedom Tower Plaza, envision retail shops and a 600-car garage along with the hotel-apartment-office center development.
An official announcement of the project is set Monday at a Miami luncheon to be attended by Gov. Bob Graham, Mayor Maurice Ferre and top officials of Bank of America and Hilton International.
Freedom Tower , so named because of its role as a processing center for thousands of Cuban exiles, fronts on Biscayne Boulevard. The 680-foot condo-hotel tower is scheduled to be built directly behind it and linked to it by patio walkways.
In number of stories, 69, the structure outdoes other skyscrapers in Florida. But because of a difference in space between floors, it will be 71 feet shorter than the Southeast Financial Center that is just beginning to rise in downtown Miami.
The architect for the new tower is Welton Becket Associates of New York, which designed three large hotels for Disney World near Orlando.
Its use of off-site constructed modules of precise size and shape is to be applied to the Miami project. A single 450- square-foot module will become a single studio apartment, a 900- square-foot module a one-bedroom apartment and so on.
Preconstruction prices for the condos will start at about $100,000 per unit, Fine said.
" Hilton will manage the apartments and the hotel," he said. "It will handle the renting of the apartments -- if owners desire -- when the owners are not using them. The apartment owners will have full use of all the facilities and amenities the project will provide."
He mentioned 24-hour room service, an indoor swimming pool bathed in sunlight through a glass overstructure, special dining and entertainment rooms and shopping services.
Fine has a ready answer to the obvious question of how luxury condos can be sold when there already is a large oversupply and how hotel rooms can be rented when occupancy rates currently are at depressed levels.
"We are going to be appealing to a totally different market," he said. "Our market is the international business community. It doesn't matter to us how many other apartments and hotels are built. We will be providing everything the international business executive needs -- an office center, secretarial services, amenities ... everything."
By setting a starting date early in 1983, Fine hopes to catch the start of an economic recovery and decline in interest rates.
Fine said condominium sales offices will be set up in Hilton International hotels in key international markets to attract foreign investors.
"This is going to be a pilot project for the Hilton organization," he said. "Other similar facilities will be built later in other international cities."
The hotel here will be called the Hilton International Vista.
Fine's Venture Development Corp. bought Freedom Tower and its adjacent property late in 1980 from New York's Citibank, which had foreclosed on a loan to a previous owner.
Fine, 51, earlier had bought the block of downtown property at Biscayne Boulevard and Flagler Street that is the site for the 60-year-old Columbus Hotel. Before entering the real estate business, Fine was a corporate vice president for real estate and construction for Food Fair Stores.
He also owns the Miami Marlins baseball team and heads a partnership that has been seeking to build a theme park on Watson Island in Biscayne Bay.