Another new South Florida hotel is nearing reality, thanks in part to a federal program that allows foreigners to invest here in exchange for permanent U.S. residency, under select conditions.
On Friday, officials from Driftwood Acquisitions & Development of Coral Gables and American Opportunity Regional Center of Miami broke ground on the new EB-5 hotel project, a 150-room DoubleTree by Hilton in Doral.
The $26 million, six-floor hotel will rise up on the corner of Northwest 102nd Avenue and 19th Street, near Miami-Dade County’s International Mall, and is slated to open in July 2017. It will feature 144 rooms and six suites, a restaurant, two bars, three meeting rooms, a business center, fitness facility and pool.
The Doral DoubleTree will be the second EB-5 hotel project for Driftwood, an affiliate of North Palm Beach-based Driftwood Hospitality Management, which operates about 40 hotels throughout the United States and Costa Rica.
In June, Driftwood Hospitality celebrated the grand opening of its first hotel developed under the EB-5 federal program, the $22.2 million, 123-room Residence Inn by Marriott Flagler Station in Miami.
The EB-5 U.S. immigrant visa program allows foreigners to live and work in the United States in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in U.S.-based projects that are in select areas and would create at least 10 jobs per investor within two years.
A handful of other South Florida developers are using the EB-5 program for new hotels across South Florida, as well as for office and restaurant projects.
Driftwood Hospitality will manage and operate the Doral hotel.
“We’re the developer partner. We just bring the expertise,” said Carlos Rodriguez, Driftwood Hospitality’s executive vice president and CEO of its acquisitions and development division. “We’re not owners. In this particular instance, we’re third party managers.”
Driftwood Acquisitions also assisted American Opportunity through “the whole soup to nuts” hotel development process that included EB-5 financing guidance, general contractor and brand selection, and supervision of the hotel’s design, Rodriguez said.
“We have a lot of projects in South Florida, and about half we’re doing like this, and the other half we’re doing as equity investors,” Rodriguez said.
Driftwood Hospitality and its affiliate have about 10 new hotel projects in the pipeline for South Florida, including two in Fort Lauderdale, one downtown and another near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Rodriguez said.
Another of Driftwood‘s EB-5 hotels in South Florida is a $50 million, 150-room Canopy by Hilton in West Palm Beach, which is set to break ground in 2017, with a targeted opening in 2018, he said.
For the Doral hotel, American Opportunity has so far recruited 25 foreign investors to help bring it to fruition, said Rafael Mendible, a 50 percent owner and managing member of the project. About 50 percent of the EB-5 investors are from Venezuela, with the remainder from Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico and India, Mendible said.
“I’ve seen a large increase in Venezuelan investors wanting to start a new life in the U.S.” because of the economic and political woes in that country, Mendible said.
For many investors, the EB-5 program is a chance for a slice of the American Dream, he said. The new hotel is also expected to bring an economic boost to Doral and create more than 270 jobs, Mendible noted.
Doral was chosen because of its reputation as an epicenter of international trade and commerce and its recognition as one of the best cities in Florida to invest in real estate, Mendible said. “It’s a wonderful and promising project, and it’s in an excellent location.”
“I had the opportunity to invest in Texas and California but found it was more attractive to do it here,” said Publio Adrianza, an EB-5 hotel investor from Mexico.
Adrianza said he was attracted to the project because of the hotel’s central location inside one of Doral‘s industrial parks and its proximity to Miami International Airport and PortMiami.
“I think it’s going to be a very good [investment] and will satisfy the demand of the businesses and everything else that is going on in and around Doral,” Adrianza said, of the new DoubleTree hotel.