is back, baby.
It feels like forever since construction crews took over the site of the former motel at NE 73rd Street and Biscayne Boulevard, the one where the original Vagabond, the standout property in a string of motels built in the 1950s, once attracted some of Miami's first car-driven tourists.
But at yesterday's soft opening, billed as a "look-see" for neighbors in surrounding communities like Belle Meade, the hotel was looking as swanky as ever -- at least in the parts completed so far.
The hotel's massive purple sign, hanging like a title card for a '50s sitcom, foreshadows the interior design.
Rooms, for example, blend modern amenities with retro styling.
The black geographic design on the wall above the bed was done by hand by Ugandan artist Kenneth Nyakabwa.
Standard rooms measure about 280 square feet, with suites adding enough extra space for a pull-out couch. Some feature original terrazzo flooring; others have repurposed original hardwood floors from other parts of the building.
Outside, the midafternoon summer sun was scorching, but the Vagabond's pool still drew a crowd. It's no secret why: Bartenders were slinging complimentary drinks for look-seers.
Even on a sweltering August day in Miami, it was hard to steer clear of the pristine, kitschy appeal of the pool area, with its funky seating, streams of water arcing in from poolside, and the Vagabond's famous tile mermaid, now restored.
We saw all ages checking out the place, including a good number of young children; yesterday would be one of their only chances to see inside the hotel. Due to safety concerns about the swimming pool, Vagabond reps told us, children ages 12 and under will be prohibited from staying at the hotel and even from hanging out on property.
The Vagabond isn't a done deal just yet. Its restaurant still sits empty, with an expected opening in early October. The space will serve upscale diner food, we're told, and will be helmed by chef Alex Chang, whose illegal dorm-room restaurant at the University of Southern California was the subject of the documentary Paladar. Talk about a vagabond.
The space will be anchored by a central bar and decorated with elements like a "living wall" of greenery and constellation-like lighting crisscrossing the ceiling.
Vagabond reps told us there are guests staying at the Vagabond, making yesterday's look-see a celebration of its soft opening. But it sounded like things won't get into full swing until Labor Day, at least -- that's when the pool bar is expected to open.
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Tonight, the Vagabond introduces itself yet again with a grand-opening celebration from 7 to 10 p.m. -- an artsy affair featuring talks by developer Avra Jain and guest artists the TM Sisters, among others. Visit thevagabondhotel.com.
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