For years, the Shelborne Hotel has been a South Beach party hotel with a beer-pong reputation. Booze-fueled spring break mega-bashes were the norm here. The hotel's Yelp reviews are beyond horrendous. It's a hotel that desperately needed to turn a new leaf, and hopefully the latest $90 million renovation has done the trick.
The Shelborne, now styled as the Shelborne Wyndham Grand, has insane amounts of potential. A very, very historic property, the hotel's original tower was designed by one of Miami's greatest architects, a man vastly under-appreciated by history, Igor Polevitzky. The other half, encompassing an expansion extending towards Collins Avenue, was by none other than Morris Lapidus, architect of the Fontainebleau, Eden Roc, etc. It's been owned by the Menin/Galbut family—the same family that did the fantastic Gale South Beach across the street—for decades.
The Menin/Galbut touch at the Shelborne is obvious. All of the lobby spaces are redone, and although they are distinctly unique to the hotel, drawing on Miami Beach history and various other sources of inspiration, it has the Menin feel. The same goes for the guest rooms. The rehab was very sensitive to the building's historic strengths, including highlighting a set of curvaceous circular staircases, and restoring the hotel's old terrazzo floors. Attention to detail abounds in individual spaces, like the Library Lounge, and the Drawing Room, where an apothocary-themed bar is tended by bartenders in lab coats. As at at the Gale, the Menin/Galbuts have paid a lot of attention to the bar offerings, and the level of the drinks on offer (which, according to the menu will include absinthe, although they did not yet have it in stock when we went for a drink this weekend) is quite high. Just walking through the property, we had limited interaction with the staff, but they seemed attentive and helpful. They had apparently been given head shots of people to look out for, because when we went over for a quick look-around the Director of Sales and Marketing immediately ran out and greeted Curbed by name, with no introduction.
The project doesn't feel finished though, and once you leave the interior lobby area, you pretty quickly see that it clearly isn't. Downstairs, the former karaoke bar is still a concrete shell. Upstairs, a broad terrace overlooking the pool is a hodgepodge of this-and-that, and a mess. Some interior hallways appear to have wainscoting ripped from the walls. Some guest rooms overlooking the pool in a long cabana-like structure still have crappy old railings from the '80s or '90s. Basically, the Shelborne is not the pristine, immaculately gorgeous jewel box that the Gale was when it opened. But it's getting there.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story associated the hotel with the notorious DUI 'Party Princess' incident, when in fact it was the Executive Chef of the Shore Club, not the Shelborne, who died that night. We regret the error.