Real Estate

The Royal Palm, Miami Beach's First Black-Owned Hotel, to Become Yet Another Fancy Chain Hotel

The Royal Palm hotel was the first black-owned hotel in all of Miami Beach, and as our Francisco Alvarado once put it, "was supposed to be a beacon of atonement for Miami-Dade County's racist past." After it re-opened on 16th and Collins in 2002, a string of bad business calculations and bitter disagreements plagued the project and it ended up on the auction block last year. Now The Wall Street Journal reports that the luxury-boutique brand of James Hotels is moving in. Yay! Just what Miami Beach needs, more luxury boutique hotel chains with names imported from other cities!

The hotel will be renamed The James Royal Palm and will join the likes of the Gansevoort, W, Mondrian, soon-to-open Dream, and a string of other relatively recent entries into the Miami Beach hotel scene with names, brands and chains that started elsewhere.

The James already has outpost in Chicago and New York, and according to The Wall Street Journal will bring another to Miami.

[James owners KSL Capital Partners LLC.] bought Royal Palm last month from Sunstone Hotel Investors Inc. for $130 million, with Sunstone providing seller financing of $90 million. Sunstone had purchased the hotel last August at a bankruptcy auction for $126 million, but the real-estate-investment trust later shuffled its top management and decided that the Royal Palm didn't fit its strategy.


KSL and Denihan plan for the Royal Palm's renovation to overhaul the hotel's rooms under the guidance of interior designer Lauren Rottet. The project also will add a spa and children's center, among other amenities.

Though, The James chain is known for featuring the work of local artists in its hotels, which should a distinctively Miami-feel. Assuming they don't commission Britto for anything, it should be a welcome change. The hotel will open next year after a $42 million makeover.

It's still a far cry from the original intent of the rebuilt Royal Palm. Miami Beach used to forbid African-Americans on the island without work permits, and as recently as 1989 city leaders snubbed Nelson Mandela when he visited. The Royal Palm was supposed to ease some of the historic racial tension by introducing the first black-owned hotel on an island where blacks formerly couldn't own property. Though, as we detailed last year, that plan never quite found success.

This Royal Palm is not to be confused with another historic hotel of the same name: Henry Flagler's Royal Palm on Biscayne Bay that was built in the late 1800s and was one of the first hotels in Miami.

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Kyle Munzenrieder