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Royal Palm Hotel Opens

$80 million Royal Palm hotel opens on Miami Beach

By Tom Stieghorst
Business Writer

May 16, 2002

Calling it the "crown jewel" of an economic plan to help blacks move into the tourism industry, Miami attorney H.T. Smith on Wednesday checked in as the first official guest of the $80 million Royal Palm Crowne Plaza hotel built by developer R. Donahue Peebles.

Smith led a 2 1/2-year boycott of Miami hotels by blacks following a 1990 visit by South African president Nelson Mandela, who was received coolly by some Miami officials for his support of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The boycott was settled in 1993 with a 20-point plan, which included black ownership of a hotel.

"Development of this hotel was our dream, but today it is Donahue Peebles' $80 million reality," said Smith. He called on Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County politicians to support the 422-room hotel. "It is essential that the Crowne Plaza survive and succeed," he said.

Although Miami Beach provided $10 million of financing for the hotel, Peebles contends it did not offer a complete picture of the deteriorated state of the 1940s-era Royal Palm and Shorecrest hotels, which were to be incorporated into the new hotel as a historic preservation measure.

Peebles eventually had to tear down and replicate the original hotels because their concrete frames could not meet modern building codes. He wants the city to absorb part of the $16 million cost overrun.

Smith said the city should rejoice that black groups, like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, are booked into the hotel. "The Royal Palm will give Miami Beach more positive publicity than it could purchase with the entire budget of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau," he said.

For his part, Peebles was relieved to finally open the hotel and turn over the keys to the general manager. "I'm going home tonight and have the best night of sleep I've had in six years," he said.

Copyright Ā 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Copyright © 2001, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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