Detoxifying Miami Beach at Canyon Ranch Living

Canyon Ranch Living is introducing the country’s first healthy living concept to a city where “natural” doesn’t come naturally.

By Stephanie Wilson
Photography by Maria Lankina


 The project is garnering astounding national attention and copycats before this locale is even open.

Miami Beach has long been a haven of glitz and glamour, of daytime beach parties followed by nighttime debauchery. The Carillon Hotel, located at 6801 Collins Avenue, was long the center of the action, even hosting a Beatles concert during the hotel’s heyday, a time before the scene headed farther down to what is now called South Beach. The party lifestyle that has long defined Miami Beach, while certainly being a good time, is not so good for health, both physically and mentally. With the Beach being a constant hive of activity, parties, and nightlife, it is hard to live a wholesome lifestyle. And while destination wellness spas have long been in vogue, upon returning home, despite even the best intentions, as the saying goes, old habits die-hard.

In order to make a change and live a healthy lifestyle 24 hours a day, a new environment is sometimes needed. Enter Canyon Ranch Living, a community dedicated to healthy living. The environment at Canyon Ranch Living is a serene, relaxed oasis where the stress and pressures of life can melt away, and residents and guests are free to live a wholesome, and sometimes holistic, lifestyle.

Canyon Ranch has been operating resorts since 1979, thanks to founder and operator Mel Zuckerman, an innovator of the health and wellness lifestyle in the U.S. Canyon Ranch Living, while being Zuckerman’s brainchild, is being developed by Eric Sheppard and his partner Phillip Wolman, co-owners and managing members of WSG Development Company. The pair have invested some $450 million into the 6-acre oceanfront site, which will be home to Canyon Ranch Living upon its completion, located at the former home of the Carillon Hotel of Beatle-fame. Sheppard grew up not 20 blocks from the location, and recalls driving by almost every day. “I couldn’t even afford the valet parking!” he says. Not born into riches, it is a combination of perseverance and a winning attitude that have led him to great success. Sheppard moved his way through various industries after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in economics and finance. He eventually found himself working for a development company, answering phones and making next to nothing, all the time keeping his eyes and ears open, learning the business from the ground up. “I was just always fascinated by building. I always said to myself when I saw buildings, ‘Who owns that?’ So I started with a pen, and that was it.” Along the way, Sheppard met Wolman, who ultimately became his partner in WSG. “First deal, I built a shopping center in Atlanta, GA, and did well off that, and have just cruised from there.” WSG currently specializes in the acquisition, development, and construction of condominiums, hotels, apartments, and retail shopping centers throughout the U.S., including Midtown Memphis, an urban village mixed-use development project in Tennessee.

When the Carillon became available, Sheppard and Wolman bought the property as a sheer investment, knowing they needed to select the right brand for the locale. “[Wolman] has been going to Canyon Ranch for 20 years, and his wife said that we should put a Canyon Ranch on the Carillon site. We were like ‘Yeah, right, they might come.'” The duo traveled to Tucson to meet with the powers that be at Canyon Ranch headquarters, expecting to get a total of three minutes of their time. Upon hearing the ideas proposed by WSG, the meeting lasted three hours, with the Canyon Ranch team ultimately deciding to head to Miami to see what WSG had to offer. When other developers heard that Canyon Ranch was shopping for a Miami locale, they all wanted in on the action, inciting a fierce competition that WSG ultimately won. “It came down to Canyon Ranch deciding whom they really wanted as their partners… [Our relationship with Canyon Ranch] is a relationship of vision: where do we see this brand going? Who is going to keep the integrity this brand is built on? It’s personal, and that’s what Canyon Ranch is; it goes to your inner core, your inner self. It affects you.”

While other developers may have looked at the deal as a real estate one, WSG knew it was about more than that; it is about lifestyle. “It’s a lifestyle of balance,” says Sheppard. Zuckerman’s visionary wellness plan is a major catalyst behind the partnership of Canyon Ranch Living Miami Beach. The goal of Canyon Ranch Living is to help its residents and guests live that life in balance every day, as the trained staff encourages people to find their healthiness, achieved through education, prevention, and implementation. “Canyon Ranch Living is healthy habits, fitness that fits your life, delicious gourmet nutrition, and most critically-balance. It is a committed lifestyle change and the guidance to make it happen,” as the brand’s brochure eloquently states.

The property itself features 430 one-, two-, three-bedroom and penthouse condominium residences alongside 150 hotel suites designed by the Rockwell Group, plus an 83,000 square foot Canyon Ranch Spa, Wellness, and Fitness Center. The property also includes common areas for play, sports, meditation, and relaxation, three swimming pools, and Canyon Ranch restaurant, which will be open to the public, although the spa is reserved for residents and hotel guests. The project is garnering astounding national attention and copycats before this locale is even open. (It is expected to open in summer 2008.)

At the center of Canyon Ranch Living’s offerings are classes, labs, consultations, evaluations, and screenings covering the entire health and wellness spectrum. The offerings at Canyon Ranch Health & Healing Center range from Healthy Heart and Cholesterol Consultation to Healing Touch Consultation, from Thai Massage to Stress Management Consultations. Canyon Ranch Living covers such a range of offerings to ensure that its residents get the most out of their living experience.

A main component is the spa, which offers 23 treatment rooms designed by David Rockwell. The spa will offer the signature Canyon Ranch body treatments; therapeutic massage and bodywork; mud, salt, aromatherapy, seaweed and ayurvedic treatments; facials; full-body cocoons and scrubs. Sheppard gets so excited when speaking about the offerings. “All of our stuff was designed in Europe, and hasn’t been done in the States yet. Instead of going into a plunge pool, for instance, you go into an ice igloo… For an amazing experience, we have the aromatherapies; there are so many different options! You’ll sit in an aromatherapy room and have an experience like nowhere else.” A Finnish sauna, hydro spa, herbal sauna, crystal steam room, and heated lounges round out the offerings at the spa, while a fully equipped fitness facility will be just as impressive.

Healthy cuisine is also a main staple at Canyon Ranch, with nutritionists who look after the every day diets of the residents. Each individual gets a personalized website that tracks what they eat, including when they order at the Canyon Ranch restaurant. They will even host organic wine tastings! It is yet another testament to the level of service that is setting Canyon Ranch apart from the copycats that are popping up around the country.

But what Canyon Ranch Living also has going for it-in addition to the brand loyalty-is location. Canyon Ranch Living sits on 1,000 feet of pristine beachfront in the center of a thriving destination, and has become the needed link between North Beach and South Beach, as the City of North Miami Beach recently broke ground on the long-anticipated boardwalk that will connect the two municipalities. The central, beautiful locale, amenities, and lifestyle offerings have resulted in record-breaking sales of the units, which are priced from $1 to $5 million.

The sales team is chock-full of stories of people spending time at one of the Canyon Ranch Resorts, then heading down to Miami Beach and purchasing a $4 million unit, or people who are buying sight-unseen, because they know the quality that Canyon Ranch delivers. “It is because people are buying a lifestyle; they are buying 25 years of brand, brand awareness, and brand programming. No one else has that… Everyone wants to have a good, balanced life in some shape or form, and that is the difference.”

The property consists of three towers, the first two are already 100 percent sold out, while a few units remain available in the North Tower. The resort is based on an urban tropics feel, with the historical significance of the Carillon Hotel being restored and preserved by renowned architecture firm Arquitectonica.

Sheppard knows he is on to something good when it comes to this project. “People are about balance, about tranquility; they just want to live a cleaner, better life,” he explains. With the help of Canyon Ranch Living, they have the opportunity to do just that.