They’ve been called condo hotels, hotel-condos, and condotels. But however you refer to them, cities like Chicago, Aspen, and New York have seen a swell of these high-rise towers enter urban areas in the last decade. Virtually every condo hotel property that has come on the market during this time has sold out in pre-construction. Although they’re condominiums by definition, these high-rises are operated like hotels.
There are typically two types of condo hotels. The first type consists of a traditional hotel along with condominium units that offer owners access to hotel services and amenities.
The second type involves a building where consumers can choose to own condo units that offer amenities such as a front desk, room service, concierge services, and property management services. When they’re not using their space, however, the hotel chain takes over the condo unit as if it were a hotel room.
An onsite management company rents, operates, maintains, and manages the space, and handles all interactions with the condo unit renters. The incoming revenue from renting the space is then shared between the owner and the operator.
Typically operated by some of the biggest names in high-rise luxury hotels, condo hotels are offered by Four Seasons, Starwood, Clarion, Hilton, Ritz-Carlton, and Trump, to name a few.
Andreas Ioannou, CEO at Orchestra Hotels + Resorts (previously with Hilton), has noticed an increase in condo hotels in Fort Lauderdale, FL, as well – in fact, he says South Florida is where condo hotels first began.
“In great gateway cities and resorts, Hilton started a trend with some of the first condo hotels in the area. But you see them in New York, you see them in Las Vegas. They’re becoming very attractive for Baby Boomers who are looking for a second or third home in a resort area that they don’t want to occupy year-round. When you buy a condo hotel unit that’s managed by a professional company, it’s worry-free for the owner. We take care of the maintenance, housekeeping, and any renovations.”
New Life for a Forgotten Building
Orchestra Hotels + Resorts, along with architecture firm Garcia Stromberg and Interiors by Steven G, recently completed a $70 million upgrade and redevelopment of a Conrad Hotel and condominium called The Ocean Resort Residences Fort Lauderdale Beach (the first Conrad resort property in the United States). Built upon a city block and 200 feet of direct ocean frontage, buyers have the option of purchasing a condo with all the services of a hotel, or purchasing a condo hotel.
Initially developed as the Trump International Hotel & Tower Fort Lauderdale, development on the project ceased in 2008 for financial reasons. Four years later, the CFLB Group purchased the tower. With 109 units and 181 resort residences, the 24-story building was originally designed by Michael Graves to resemble an ocean liner. Large porthole windows and blue glass were used to resemble marine life and play off of the surrounding environment. Nearly 95 percent of The Ocean Resort Residences have a view to the Atlantic Ocean, bringing an abundance of natural light in to high-rise spaces.
From the carpet to the porcelain tile, the building interior was redesigned to look like a luxury yacht once Orchestra Hotels + Resorts, Garcia Stromberg, and Interiors by Steven G took over. Teak wood paneling, stainless steel, and leather trim are used throughout the tower – both for their aesthetics and for their durability. The furnishings are designed for dual purposes, similar to what ocean liners may provide due to space premiums: a desk that doubles as a vanity with a mirror, window shades that turn into movie screens, and small coffee tables that can expand into large dining room tables.
In one of The Ocean Resort Residences restaurants, sculptural lighting is hung to look like ocean waves along the ceiling. The restaurant also includes what’s known as a green wall; the full length of the restaurant dining room wall is covered with greenery. With attached modular panels that hold a growing medium, the wall is designed to look like one solid plane of plants.
The design and construction team also added what it calls a 10,000-square-foot “Jewel Box” to the existing property to help it stand out from the other towers along the shoreline. The Jewel Box is a five-story, glass-enclosed space on the sixth floor that connects the pool and Serenity Deck two stories above ground level. Designed to look as if it’s “hanging” between the east and west buildings of The Ocean Resort Residences, it offers views of the Atlantic Ocean in every direction.
Ioannou is quick to point out that design isn’t the only differentiator for this condo hotel property. Technology is another powerful tool used throughout the tower to help reduce costs, keep staff streamlined, and connect guests and owners immediately to whatever they need.
High-speed internet access is a given. Many aspects of the room can be controlled with an iPad, such as window coverings, lighting, and temperature.
In addition, The Ocean Resort Residences uses an app that lets guests select their rooms before arrival, use their own mobile phones as room keys, and check in remotely without stopping at the front desk. It also allows guests to communicate with staff beforehand, letting them know about additional requests. All of this information goes straight the hotel’s database and can be accessed by maintenance, operations, and management staff who check over rooms, get spaces ready for use, etc.
Keeping Up with Appearances
Maintenance was a key consideration during the upgrade and redevelopment of the tower. “We know what happens in hotels,” says Ioannou. “Because it’s not your home, people don’t necessarily care for the furniture and fixtures like a true owner would.” As a result, the standards for construction and materials used at The Ocean Resort Residences are very strict.
“The wood veneer used for most of the case goods is walnut. It has a coating that won’t allow people to easily scratch it.” Ioannou says leather was chosen for its inherent durability. The carpet was also specifically selected for longevity and ease of maintenance.
LED lighting is used throughout the 24-story tower. Although Ioannou says it cost more upfront to make this investment, the payoffs include lower monthly utility bills, less frequent lamp change-outs, and lighting quality consistency.
The Ocean Resort Residences is also working on a partnership that would make Tesla the official car of the property for guests to use.
Although the tower just opened, the innovation isn’t over. Ioannou says that solar and wind power are next up for the building in a few years, especially if initial investment costs go down. “We’re leading the charge as an ownership group with our Hilton property in Fort Lauderdale,” says Ioannou, “and we plan to do similar things at The Ocean next door.”
Photos courtesy of Orchestra Hotels + Resorts