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Luxury hotel expert dishes on Tampa Bay’s allure

Pendry hotels founder talks up the Tampa buzz, growing up in the hotel business and delivering a luxury residential component to his hotels.


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Luxury hotelier Pendry Hotels & Resorts is building a 37-story luxury tower on the Hillsborough River with Miami-based developers Two Roads Development.

The hotel, expected to open sometime in 2024, will include 220 rooms, a luxury spa and a rooftop pool on a deck overlooking the Hillsborough River, along with fare like an upscale restaurant, a lobby bar and café. On the floors above the hotel will be 207 condos.

The condos will come with a dedicated residential staff and offer all the amenities available to hotel guests. Condo residents will have a private entrance, but once inside the building will have access to the hotel and its offerings, including room service. Prices for those units will start at $900,000, with penthouses in the $3 million to $4 million range.

Reid Boren, managing partner at Two Roads Development, the Miami developer behind the project, say they've already secured $50 million in pre-sales. 

Pendry, meanwhile, is part of Montage International, a chain of self-described ultra-luxury hotels, resorts and residences. Montage was founded by Alan Fuerstman, who remains chairman and CEO. His son Michael is the cofounder and creative director of Pendry.

To date, it operates in six cities, including Hollywood, California, Chicago, New York, Baltimore and a just-opened resort in Park City, Utah. Several more are on the way. The Business Observer recently sat down with Michael Fuerstman and Tina Necrason, executive vice president for residential at Montage, at Pendry’s sales gallery in Tampa, to talk about the project and the region. 

 

You grew up in the hotel business. What made you want to pursue it as a career?

Michael Fuerstman: You know, I think it’s a really beautiful business. It’s dynamic, every day is different than the one before, it’s not 9 to 5. As a kid I saw how passionate my dad was about it, and how much he loved it, and was creating things, and working with talented and really interesting people. It’s sort of what I knew. I decided to see if I wanted to do something else, but, ultimately, I was sucked back in. I went and worked with a developer for a couple of years and then ended up joining my dad in Montage and helping to grow and build something really special together. 

When did you first get the idea for Pendry and how did it grow from an idea into the first property?

Fuerstman: We had always wanted to do another brand, a complimentary luxury brand, but didn’t quite know what that was going to be. We just sort of spent enough time developing Montage properties that we noticed there was a new wave of luxury customer coming into being.

Alan Fuerstman, founder, chairman and CEO of Montage International; Michael Fuerstman, co-fouunder and creative director of Pendry Hotels.
Alan Fuerstman, founder, chairman and CEO of Montage International; Michael Fuerstman, co-fouunder and creative director of Pendry Hotels.

We ascertained that customer wanted the substance, the quality, the service culture of a classic luxury hotel. But they wanted to experience it in a different style. So, the idea for Pendry was: Can we take what we do really well with Montage, all those things I just mentioned — the structure, the infrastructure, the culture, the service — and take the core elements of what we do well servicing our guests and make it contemporary, little bit more modern, a little bit more stylish? Have different styles of restaurants, different styles of bars, different types of amenities on properties.

We started thinking that way seven, eight years ago, really coming out of the last recession. In the early 2010s, we were saying “the world has changed, and we can feel that things are moving a little bit differently.” We developed the concept and we were able to find what we thought was a great place to start: an amazing almost full city block in downtown San Diego, which is a market we knew pretty well being based in Southern California. We created a great program and brought it to life, and it was very well received. 

Not every property has residences, right?

Tina Necrason: Not on the Pendry side.

Fuerstman: On the Pendry side, about 50% of them will have it. On the Montage side, to date, actually every Montage does have residential.

Necrason: It’s a $5 billion portfolio and last year we sold $850 million of real estate. So, people are seeking the lifestyle.

What criteria do you look at when deciding if a property is going to have a residential component?

Fuerstman: It’s whatever is highest and best use for the development, the building. Right? If it makes sense, if it feels like there’s a strong residential market and there’s a place to fit a residential offering alongside a hotel, our default is we would love to do that. In some cases, the residential market is not strong enough to support it and it’s a higher and better use to be a hotel. For example, Baltimore. It didn’t make sense to have a residential component for that property. Frankly, we didn’t have the size as well. Here in Tampa, the residential market has been booming.

When you decided on Tampa, had you been looking within this market, had you been looking in Florida?

Fuerstman: There’s a real drive to Florida, to live in this unbelievable state. Sunshine and tax basis and lifestyle. So, we’d been looking and wanting to be a part of it somehow, some way. And this unbelievable site — great partners, big vision, Tampa’s sort of peaking, coming into its own at the right time and enough mass scale to create a great hotel with great residential — this made all the sense in the world.

When we’re looking for new opportunities, we are proactively looking in some areas of the world. And then other times opportunities just sort of come to us. We’d been proactively looking at Florida for a long time, mostly in South Florida. We spent a lot of time in Miami. The idea of having a great property and home base in Florida was important to us as a brand and as a company.

This opportunity in Tampa wasn’t on our radar, it came to us through our colleagues at Two Roads. And we said, 'You know what? We haven’t spent enough time in Tampa. We should go take a look and understand the city and see if it feels right for us.' Not just if it feels right for us, but can we add value, can we contribute something — a new note in the city, a different sensibility. There’s no shortcut. We came and we spent time, boots on the ground, and tried to understand what is happening here. What’s the restaurant scene like? What is the residential scene like? What kind of architecture and interior design exist here? What should exist here? Who else is building and developing? Generally, what’s the scene? Through all that, we realized how dynamic this city is and how it's trending in an unbelievable upward trajectory.

Is this how you approach every market you go into?

Fuerstman: Yeah. I think we’re a smaller Southern California-based luxury hotel company. Also, I think, we have the benefit of being a family-owned company. There’s no deal we have to do. There’s no deal we need to do. We take on projects we think can add value and that we know will be successful. So that disciplined or dedicated growth has served us really well. And we'd rather do less projects, but the ones we do take on execute them exceptionally well and deliver results for our owners and partners but also for guests and homeowners. There are other companies that will do more than us, but we are proud of what we do.

How hands on are you?

Fuerstman: Exceptionally. It’s what we love to do. We live it and breathe it. I tell people all the time. There’s no shortcut. You just have to go and spend the time in the market and spend the time as your opening with our team spreading the gospel — this is what we do, this is why it’s important, this is how we do things, this is what our guests and our owners expect, we’re in it with you. We want to be hands on, we want to feel like we’ve helped set the tone for what will be a successful endeavor. I spend about 50% of my time on the road. We put our heart and soul into these things.

When you are designing and building out the residential portion of a project, how do you balance the needs of residents versus the needs of a hotel customer?
Tina Necrason, executive vice president for residential at Montage International.
Tina Necrason, executive vice president for residential at Montage International.

Necrason: It’s a very comprehensive exercise and view. We look at it sort of inside out. So, it’s “How do people want to live?” It’s not just one dimensional. We have design — we think of the logistics of service, the accessibility, how we can create a cohesive environment for our residents to live in but also the privacy.

These need to feel like homes. They have to be functional. For us, we really just take a look at just what that means — how do we deliver service through our residential staff, how much residential amenity space do we need? A lot of it, too, is market driven by what will resonate. Whether it’s a specific type of floor plan, sizes, the whole mix. What will really attract buyers to this project. And then also, looking at it from a premium standpoint. There’s a lifestyle associated with it which is indicative of a premium and expectations, so we take a look at that. It’s every detail, and we say luxury is in the details, but it’s every detail from…floorplan, functionality, how people will live there, how people see themselves living there. Its very, very much market driven.

You know, one of the unique things about the real estate side is I’m less sensitive to whether its Montage or Pendry. I deliver the same level of service. Everything about it is pretty much the same so we are driven by the service component.

Is there any concern that you, your condos, are going to oversaturate the market?

Necrason: We’re sort of masters of the craft. We’re looking at every trend, every datapoint, everything out for the next 10 years and beyond and making sure we have something that’s sustainable, that makes sense, that we’re not overinflating the market.

Here, there is a lot of opportunity and for us, we’re so well-differentiated and positioned because it is fully serviced living. But certainly, we really dig into the data side. And we’re also really thoughtful about how we position this type of offering. Again, very much lifestyle driven. It’s not price per foot, it’s lifestyle per foot when people are looking at this type of offering.

 

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