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Steve Webb swings down to South Beach to check out the latest in boutique hotel development

South Beach in Miami is famous for its art-deco architecture, trendy nightclubs and, of course, the beach. These days, South Beach also is becoming known as a hotbed for boutique hotels. No other company has opened more boutique properties in Miami Beach as the South Beach Group, which is finishing renovations at the Hotel Chelsea, one of six boutique properties it owns and manages in the area. The company also has purchased a seventh building that will undergo extensive renovations before it opens as the Angler in about two years.

Originally built in 1936, the 4-story, 42-room Hotel Chelsea will celebrate a grand reopening April 5. It has stayed in business during the extensive interior renovations, which have remodeled the guestrooms using in an Asian theme featuring bamboo floors, Japanese-style furniture and soft lighting.

Each room features a CD player and VCR, two telephones, high-speed Internet access, in-room massage services, an oversized desk and a "floating bed." The hotel also features activities for guests such as yoga on the beach.

"What I’m really aiming to do with the Chelsea is go further with the intimate setting," said Lindsey Harris, general manager of the Hotel Chelsea and the Whitelaw Hotel and Lounge , another South Beach Group property.

Harris said the main quality that sets the Hotel Chelsea and the other South Beach Group properties apart from other boutique properties is customer service. The concierge calls guests one week prior to arrival to see if they want to make special arrangements or advance restaurant reservations. "If they leave the hotel and they don’t have a great time in South Beach, they won’t come back," she said. "We will go above and beyond to find out how we can help the guest have a good time using South Beach as our campus."

With room rates starting at $89 per night, the South Beach Hotel Group’s rates are lower than most of the other city’s boutique properties, some of which average $400 per night. Although the company’s average rates are lower than other South Beach boutique hotels, the properties include rooms with rates as high as $1,000 per night. "We can really cater to any group," Harris said.

Established in 1997, the group’s other South Beach properties include the 50-room Chesterfield Hotel, the 49-room Hotel Shelley, the 17-room Lily Guesthouse and the 47-room Mercury Hotel & Resort. The Angler, at 90 rooms, will be the group’s largest property to date. The company recently completed renovations of The Whitelaw Hotel and Lounge, which features all-white décor and free drinks at a nightly cocktail party.

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