A pair of international investors are in the midst of the largest buy-up of property in the blocks behind the city beach since the end of the Spring Break era. Acting independently of each other, the two men have spent about $39 million to acquire more than two dozen small hotels, apartment buildings and shops. The change in ownership signals the start of the next wave of redevelopment on the barrier island after the construction of luxury oceanfront hotels such as the W and Ritz Carlton.
Par Sanda, a hedge fund manager originally from Sweden, has been buying mom-and-pop hotels between Bayshore Drive and the Bonnet House, according to county land records. Other records show Canadian hedge fund manager Michael Wekerle has purchased the historic Escape Hotel and shops in the Sunrise Lane area next to the newly opened B Ocean luxury hotel.
Sanda has been piecing together blocks of properties with his purchases. His plans largely follow what the city has long wanted to see happen there — low-rise redevelopment that creates a much more active community. His right-hand man, longtime Fort Lauderdale hotelier Richard Gray, said Sanda foresees a vibrant, higher-end destination like South Beach with small chic resorts with adjacent places for visitors to shop, eat and have fun.
“Par is passionate about Fort Lauderdale and wants to be part of making it a world-class destination,” said Gray, who also is a member of the county’s Tourism Development Council. “He loves the beach and wants to make a difference.” Sanda’s team will launch a hotel expansion in early April that they say exemplifies their overall plans. They combined the gay Royal Palms resort that Gray once owned with two nearby hotels, the Monte Carlo and the Three Palms. The new 62-room property is being marketed as the largest luxury gay resort in North America. Sanda undertook a seven-month, multimillion-dollar renovation of the two additions to create a contemporary European style. Rooms feature white leather furniture, 42-inch flat-screen televisions and rain showers. The expansion includes a bar and grill, three pools, a fitness center and a spa.
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