by suzanne mcgee | April 9, 2014 | Lifestyle
With the near completion of his much-hyped Edition, Ian Schrager’s return to the Miami scene brings with it luxury, relaxation, and most important, a good place for him to stay.
Ian Schrager in his office. “These days, the range of choices is particularly exciting” in Miami, says Schrager, who pioneered New York’s iconic Studio 54.
Ian Schrager has had the opportunity “to do and try everything that I could imagine,” from founding New York’s iconic Studio 54 nightclub to inventing the concept of the boutique hotel.
Nowadays, his favorite pastimes might surprise those who equate his name with a hard-partying lifestyle. Forget the Studio 54 days, when everyone from Andy Warhol to Mick Jagger (and even Vladimir Horowitz) made Schrager’s first foray into the entertainment industry a byword for sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.
These days, the one-time playboy is taking a new approach to both work and leisure. His favorite activity? Taking his 3-year-old son Louis hunting for men-of-war washed up on the beaches of Miami. “Hey, it’s something I never did before,” Schrager says with a shrug. “And it’s wonderful.”
That doesn’t mean the 67-year-old hotelier is giving up his day job anytime soon. On the contrary, he’s scrutinizing every detail of his latest venture, the Miami Beach Edition, a combination of luxury hotel and luxury condo residences aimed at what he calls a new generation of “global citizens.” These people have a lot of wealth on hand, and they increasingly appear happy to pay the kind of price for a Miami pied-à-terre that they would need to fork out to own similar properties in cities like New York, London, or Hong Kong.
A year ago, for instance, an American buyer ponied up $34 million for two penthouse units at Edition. As of late last year, the average sale price for the not-yet-completed units was the highest on record for Miami, at $2,640 per square foot, with property amenities including a year-round ice-skating rink, bowling alley, nightclub, multiple bars, two pools, a Jean-Georges restaurant, spa, and gym, for starters.
“Hotels should lift your spirits,” Schrager says, ”not just provide a bed for the night.”
This will be the first venture for Schrager in Miami since launching the Delano 17 years ago, but while he may have been absent from active involvement in the city’s real estate scene for years, he says he’s never lost his long-standing ties to Miami.
“I started coming here with my parents in the ’50s, so I’ve seen the full transformation, watching development move northward,” he recalls. “We used to stay on Ocean Drive, then Flamingo Park.” When he was a teenager, his parents moved permanently to the area, and his younger brother graduated from Miami Beach High School. “It’s always been a place that I visit with family, where I vacation, where I’ve thought about buying an apartment and living at least part of the time.”
What’s the allure? That’s easy, Schrager says, laughing. Miami is the ultimate city. If you wake up one morning feeling lazy, you can indulge that instinct. “You can lie in the sun and the shade, reading or sleeping, with zero molecular movement,” with greater pleasure than you can anywhere else in the country, he argues. At the other extreme, there’s the city’s vibrant nightlife scene. “You always have choices, and these days, the range of choices available is particularly exciting.”
That hasn’t always been the case, Schrager says. Back in the 1960s, he watched as nightlife and excitement bypassed Miami and headed for the Caribbean islands instead. “And yes, if Cuba reopens to American business and tourists, Miami could see another hiccup,” he acknowledges. “This is a city with boom/bust extremes programmed into its DNA, and it’s been that way since the ’20s.” That doesn’t worry Schrager much. For the time being—in spite of the prophets of doom fretting about the soaring property prices and speculating that a bubble is taking shape—Schrager remains convinced that the city’s fundamentals are sound. “It’s more than just people from South America or Europe,” he says of the city’s visitors. “People are coming from all over—even from Palm Beach—to experience what Miami can offer. The appeal is going up very high on the Richter scale. It’s a city that’s easy to reach and has a lot to offer.”
The penthouse at the new Miami Beach Edition.
The only thing missing, at least in Schrager’s view, from today’s Miami is the perfect hotel. “I don’t have a place I love and feel comfortable staying in,” he says. “So I’m building it.” And Schrager is quite open that Edition won’t be his final venture in Miami, either. “I’m looking for properties now.”
While Schrager defines himself as a builder, he is quite prepared to argue that what he does—conceptualizing and overseeing the construction of hotels and other real estate projects—hasn’t taken him very far from his Studio 54 days when he and his late partner, Steve Rubell, shifted walls around to create a new vibe and atmosphere every night. “I’m still in the entertainment business,” Schrager says. “There’s a lot of similarity between hotels and nightclubs; both should lift your spirits by creating an exciting atmosphere, not just provide a bed for the night.”
At Edition, he has sought to create a series of dynamic public spaces including, importantly, the outdoors. “I was inspired by Cuba’s Tropicana in its legendary days,” says Schrager. Creating an electric vibe in once-dead indoor spaces like hotel lobbies and restaurants has long been a Schrager trademark, but he himself is the first to argue that the trend has evolved since he pioneered it at places like New York’s Royalton. “The visual vocabulary has become more sophisticated and refined,” he says. “Dynamic doesn’t mean that everybody is yelling.”
Schrager’s highwire act—staying ahead of the crowd and delivering what the elite want before they know they want it—is a success, he says, because of the philosophy to which he has adhered over the decades. “If you’re a one-trick pony, you’re not going to have a long career. You have to keep being entertaining and always keep thinking of new ways to deliver that. After all, I’m still in the business of generating hits.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC RYAN ANDERSON