Saving History at The Savoy

The Savoy honors its roots, and returns to its rightful place as the deco king of SoFi

By Stephanie Wilson
Photography by Reynaldo Ales


 The last historic oceanfront property in Miami Beach, The Savoy reflects 70 years of elegance and style.

The history of South Beach is a glorious one, with peaks and valleys dotting its short lifespan. The town was incorporated less than one hundred years ago; the first hotel didn’t open its doors until 1915. Before that time, the island was a mess of jungle and underbrush, a coconut plantation gone wrong. But just ten years after Miami Beach came to be, famed Art Deco architecture was introduced in hotels, apartment buildings, and storefronts, bringing a style and pizzazz to the Beach that has since defined the destination.

Miami Beach has seen more than its fair share of heydays. People have been coming to play on the Beach since its inception, frolicking in the turquoise water, dining in outdoor cafés, and relaxing in the Caribbean-style sun. But there have also been slumps in the raging tourist destination, allowing areas to become unsightly and unused. Just 32 years ago, the area known now as South of Fifth was deemed “blighted,” and targeted for complete redevelopment.

It is amazing what a few short years can do. Thanks to the hard work of caring individuals, many historic buildings that feature intricate Art Deco architecture were saved from demolition during South Beach slump. Now the area South of Fifth is by far the most exclusive neighborhood in all of Miami Beach. Iconic towers reach toward the sky, seeming to offer views that stretch to Cuba on a clear day. The magnificent beaches are lined by high-end developments promising exclusivity and luxuries that ensure South Beach is once again enjoying a heyday, one that is here to stay.

One hotel tells its own version of Miami Beach’s history: The Savoy. The last historic oceanfront property in Miami Beach, The Savoy reflects 70 years of elegance and style. The property’s rich past tells a story of Miami Beach that reflects the times. The building not only represents the Art Deco history, but also reflects the heart, soul, and character of the neighborhood. The Savoy was first built in the 1930’s, and was part of the area called “blighted” by the city of Miami Beach, when in fact, the building wasn’t damaged at all. The city simply wanted the property-and most buildings South of Fifth- for part of its South Shore Redevelopment Project, which later fell through.

For the past fifteen years, The Savoy has sat un-renovated, waiting for the right team to come in and transform the property back into the style that the historic piece of land deserves. That team is here; the time for change is now.

CMA Development Group, headed up by Gary Cohen, Camilo Aguirre, and Jean-Marc Meunier, purchased the property two and a half years ago, and have set forth on plans to make this the most luxurious destination and residence that Miami Beach has ever known.

“I know this property is amazing, with such a rich history, and I want to honor that history,” says Cohen. “The only thing that will remain the same is the façade, to pay tribute to the Art Deco roots. The whole building will be essentially brand new.” The property will feature three new towers. Fifty-seven condo/hotel residences will grace the existing buildings, featuring studio, one, two, and three bedroom floor plans ranging from 563 to 3,700 square feet. The beachfront units will be directly on the sand, with glass frontage, offering amazing views in an exclusive location. Cohen explains, “The beach here is ideal: it’s private, it’s quiet, and it’s beautiful. But it’s just steps away from Ocean Drive, and that is just great.” Meunier agrees. “There is no real competition for this property. We are on Ocean Drive and on the water, which is a rarity.” Peaceful reflection pools will surround the center tower, allowing a sense of calm to exude from the beautifully landscaped grounds.

Just a block away at 4th and Collins, Savoy Lofts will offer 24 units. “This will be a brand new construction, with seven stories of beautiful lofts with ocean views, and 135 parking spaces, which is a rarity on the Beach,” says Cohen. Owners of the lofts will also have access to all the amenities found at The Savoy, including the exclusive St. Tropez-style beach club.

In order to ensure that the property plays proper homage to its inspiring roots, the ultimate team has been constructed for The Savoy project. Meunier says, “[The Historic Board of Miami Beach] recognized that it is difficult to combine an old structure with a new one. We are lucky to have award-wining architect Allan T. Shulman, one of the most well-known architects for the Art Deco District, creating this project… We have good support from the city, which tends to be difficult, since we are in a historic district, so the approval process can be complex. But in this case, they helped us tremendously.” Renowned interior designer Charles Allem, consistently appointed one of Architectural Digest’s AD100, is also on board to help bring the project up to only the highest standards.

“Knowing this property is so amazing, we really wanted to create a dream team to run it. So we were looking for only the highest end product to come here.” In this fashion, interior designs will be done by the illustrious high-end design house Fendi Casa. “Some people say five-star is an overused term this day, but you really can’t find a better furniture package than Fendi Casa,” explains Cohen.

Luca Buttazzoni, president of Fendi Casa USA, believes that the use of Fendi Casa is ideal in this project. “We wanted to do a project South of Fifth… The opportunity at The Savoy came along perfectly, at the right time, with the right location, the right building, and the right developer.”

Fendi Casa is working tightly with interior designer Charles Allem in creating the ideal look for the project. Buttazzoni explains the result is very modern and contemporary; black and whites with a splash of green create an elegant mix that compliments the beachfront locale. The sales center, located on-site, is also outfitted by Fendi Casa.

The company will provide furnishings for the hotel units, as well as linens, towels, and even slippers-almost everything will be done by the design house. Fendi Casa is also responsible for public spaces, and the elite spa. The units will also feature granite countertops, marble baths, Miele appliances, and other such finishes to ensure the property lives up to its promise to be only the best.

Leading up the sales team is real estate legend Dolly Lenz, vice chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman, New York’s largest real estate company. She is the exclusive broker on the property, and brings with her a know-how that is befitting the team. Lenz currently has more than $1 billion worth of properties listed, and counts many household names on her client list. “At The Savoy, we only have the best of everything,” explains Cohen. “We literally wanted to hire the best broker in the US, so we did some research, and who comes up but Dolly Lenz? She has been the top selling real estate broker in the United States for the past three years, and we are so proud to have her on our team.”

Lenz is very happy to be part of The Savoy experience, which is her first project in Miami. “I am thrilled to be representing such a unique property. The Savoy is a desirable residence with such a rich history, and I am excited to introduce it to discerning buyers.”

With prices starting at $750,000 for Savoy Lofts, and ocean residences ranging from $1.5 to more than $7 million, buyers will be expecting only the best in service, as will the hotels many nightly guests. That is what the property promises to deliver, with a gourmet restaurant, lounge and martini bar, spa, and fitness center. The Savoy will deliver high-end concierge services for its sagacious travelers, such as VIP nightclub reservations, private jet service, a Rolls Royce Phantom shuttle, and more.

The property will not only honor its roots, but provide even more flavor to the aspiring city of Miami Beach. Cohen says, “The property has a great history to it. It has been home to rock stars, and to the rich and famous. Our most historic chapter is about to be written.”