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Boycott produces results: black-owned Miami Beach hotel scheduled to open in 1996.

If Nelson Mandela visits the Miami area in the future, he will undoubtedly receive a much different reception from the one he got in 1990. Instead of being snubbed, he might very well end up as a guest at the black-owned hotel that exists today because of the controversy surrounding his visit.

The 265-suite hotel is being developed on the oceanfront within walking distance of the Miami Beach Convention Center. It satisfies the main requirement of the plan resolving the black boycott of Miami tourism. The nationwide ban was started by blacks in 1990 after Greater Miami politicians denied Nelson Mandela an official welcoming ceremony.

Scheduled to open in late 1996, the $37 million Sheraton Suites Hotel will be one of the few black-owned major hotels in the nation, and the first in south Florida, a hub of the tourist industry.

"When the Sheraton Suites Hotel opens in Miami Beach, it will take Greater Miami from worst to first in terms of being a black tourist destinations," says lawyer H.T. Smith, who led the boycott.

The city of Miami Beach is using $60 million to lure the development of two convention hotels. To end the boycott, $10 million from these funds was set aside for a hotel that would be black-owned.

In July, the Miami City Commission designated the HCF Group for its set-aside. Incorporated in 1993, the HCF Group consists of four Miami-area black businessmen: Marvin Holloway, previously operations manager of a North African oil import and trading venture; Peter J. Calin, a vice president of the American Express Travel Related Services Co.; Eugene Ford Jr., president and CEO of Argus Construction; and Jerry D. Bailey, general tax attorney for a division of Texaco Inc.

"If you add all the pieces together, we have a good balance of large corporation discipline and insight, as well as some practical entrepreneurial skills," notes Bailey.

Financed in part by $1 million in equity put up by the HCF Group and $2 million to $5 million of equity being sought from other investors through a limited partnership, first mortgage debt will be $15 million on the $37 million hotel.

Located in the middle of other South Beach restorations, the project entails building a 16-story tower of suites and renovating the Royal Palm and Shorecrest Hotels, while preserving their historic art deco styles. ITT Sheraton, an $8 million equity partner in the venture, will be the hotel operator.

Though black-owned, the Sheraton Suites will not be a "black hotel" in terms of clientele, according to HCF Group members. "This is a commercial venture. We're going to attract the broadest range of clientele in our market segments that we possibly can," Calin says.

Targeting leisure travelers, convention groups and businesspeople, the resort hotel will be strengthened by Sheraton's national reservations system and reputation in Latin America and Europe, key gateway points for travel to Miami.

The boycott continued as long as it did because organizers insisted that their demands be met. "Those of us who led the boycott effort insisted that building a black-owned hotel would be the No. 1 priority," Smith says.
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Title Annotation:Sheraton Suites Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida
Author:Hocker, Cliff
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Dec 1, 1994
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