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MIAMI BEACH, FL-Lionstone Hotels & Resorts has closed on a key acquisition as part of an overall strategic plan to increase the company’s investment holdings in the hospitality industry.

The operating affiliate of Miami Beach-based Lionstone Group Inc. is now planning a $70 million, phased redevelopment of the 704,538-sf, mixed-use DuPont Plaza in Downtown Miami as part of an ongoing expansion plan into the South Florida and Caribbean markets.

News of the closing also comes just as the company signed Jamaica-based SuperClubs to manage the 340-room Princess Beach Resort & Casino in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles.This activity also comes as the company is investing about $100 million to redevelop the DiLido Beach Hotel in Miami Beach into a five-star Ritz-Carlton, which is expected to open sometime this fall.

“We’re trying to stay focused on a (geographical) area that we know well,” Bruce Lazar, Lionstone executive vice president, tells GlobeSt.com. “Since 1997, we’ve acquired five properties, in addition to the DiLido and the Seville (Beach Hotel in Miami Beach).”

Although Lazar didn’t talk about the purchase price, industry sources estimate Lionstone acquired the three-acre DuPont Plaza site from Miami-based Bayview Associates Inc. at between $90 million to $105 million, or $130 per sf to $150 per sf.

Situated on a highly prized piece of Downtown ground, the property currently contains 165,000 sf feet of office space, a 297-room Ramada-brand hotel and about 142 leased apartments.

Following renovation work, however, the company will remarket the property as the Travel and Trade Center of the Americas, which will contain a mixture of extended-stay and transient lodging, travel and trade show facilities and permanent and temporary office space.

As part of the remarking effort, the company announced last week plans to convert the Dupont Plaza Apartments into a 142-room, extended-stay Residence Inn managed by Marriott.

“Extended stay has been the hot new market,” Sheldon Greene, a Miami-based hotel industry consultant, tells GlobeSt.com “That type of property doesn’t exist Downtown or the nearby Brickell Avenue area. It would seem ideal that you take these rental apartments and make them extended-stay, because there might be a market for them.”

Because of Miami’s reputation as a tourism and international trade Mecca, Lazar says it makes sense to offer a mixture of extended-stay and transient lodging for travelers doing business at the Travel and Trade Center.

“The idea is to establish a one-stop, wholesale and retail shopping site for the travel and trade industry,” Lazar says. “As far as we know this has never been done before. We’ve had a lot of good response about the concept.”

In the meantime, occupancy is dwindling fast in the DuPont Plaza as the prior owner prepared for redevelopment, and Lionstone is now executing it. Office occupancy, for instance, is estimated at about 25%.

“We haven’t signed anyone to a lease yet,” Lazar says. “But there’s been a lot of interest expressed.”

All of this is just the start for Lionstone, Lazar says, a family-owned company controlled by Alfredo Lowenstein. It was his late-father who first acquired the DiLido and Seville hotels in the late 1970s. Besides Lowenstein and Lazar, Diego Lowenstein, vice president and chief operating officer, serve as the company’s principal executives.

The company also owns the Sheraton Curacao Resort and the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort and the Bushiri Beach Resort in Aruba.

“We’re always looking for additional properties, as long as they meet our parameters,” Lazar says. “We generally like underutilized properties ripe for redevelopment, generally beachfront, but definitely waterfront. Depending on each deal, we use bank financing. But we also provide a significant amount of our own capital.”

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