Building Partners: Plaza Recently Completed Florida’s High-Profile W South Beach Hotel

The first step KM/Plaza takes in a project is to develop a relationship with the client.  No matter what the project entails, or the size, KM/Plaza treats every client the same, viewing them as valued partners and members of the KM/Plaza team.

“We take a unique approach to all projects; whatever the contract format might be, the relationship we like to have with the client is one of partner,” President Brad Meltzer elaborates.

This philosophy stems from the owner-builder makeup of KM/Plaza, a group formed from Miami-based KM Construction and New York based Plaza Construction Crop., the original in-house construction firm for the real estate company Fisher Brothers.  “If we’re going to build for others, then we’re going to build like we would build for ourselves,” Meltzer says.

The relationships on a project do not stop with the clients – KM/Plaza treats its subcontractors like partners, as well.  “Our motto here is that we’re only as good as our subs,” Meltzer explains.  Regardless of the project’s size, KM/Plaza says it seeks the most professional subcontractors in the marketplace.

“If there are 32 great subs on a project and one problem sub, that one could wreck the entire project,” he says, adding that by creating high quality relationships, the company has gotten the cream of the crop.  Meltzer stresses it is important for a contractor to work with its subs, not above them.  “It’s better to help a subcontractor across the finish line than to browbeat them to it,” he notes.

Upscale Challenge

KM/Plaza served as the construction manager at risk for the new 21-story W South Beach Hotel and Residencies, which opened in July in Miami Beach.

An upscale condominium and hotel, the property includes 408 units with panoramic ocean views, 22 pools, a three-floor spa, six bars and restaurants, fitness center, and rooftop tennis and basketball courts.  The 875,000-square-foot property sits along 300 feet of oceanfront white sands.  The total construction cost exceeded $190 million.

“We’re proud of this project because of the quality of the finishes, and it’s second to none in South Florida,” Meltzer declares. “It sets itself apart because condos are usually done with a decorator-ready finish…whereas the W is a complete finished residence and hotel.”

A challenge at the W was the engineering and construction of a 400-foot-long vehicular tunnel and basement, which Meltzer described as unique not only to the project, but also to south Florida.

The tunnel is 16 feet deep and 12 feet below the water table.  The 25,000-square-foot-basement is 30 feet below the ground.  Being only 100 yards from the Atlantic Ocean, the dewatering effort was massive.

Meltzer explains that the company had to install 30 eight-inch pumps to dewater the excavation.  During high tide the wells overflowed, leading to flooding at the site.

While most condos along the beach do not have basements, the W’s was created for accounting, administration, sales and marketing services.  The tunnel was built to ease traffic congestion created by the valet parking.

Materials for the W were imported from all over the world, Meltzer says, pointing out that windows and custom bronze screens in the building come from Canada and stone tile and cabinetry come from Italy.

“This project was done in challenging financial times and still met the original schedule,” he explains.

An Important Cause

Every year KM/Plaza hosts a charity golf event where all proceeds are donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Over the past three years, it has been able to raise more than $400,000 for MS.

“This is an important cause that hits close to home for us,” he says.  “We’ve been able to raise a lot of money for a great organization and we hope to continue to do so.” In 2007, Meltzer, Katz, and KM/Plaza were awarded the Philanthropist of the Year from the South Florida chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.


New Markets

KM/Plaza has not been immune to the recession, and Meltzer admits that South Florida has seen better times. For example, the market has changed dramatically in the past 12 to 18 months because of tighter lending practices.  As a result, he sees some very viable projects on the horizon but developers are unable to borrow capital for them.

“We’re focusing on government and institutional work; it’s where the funds seems to be,” Meltzer says, noting that the company will be submitting a bid for Dade County’s proposed parking garage for the Florida Marlins stadium, which is budgeted at $94 million.

Meltzer says the company also is venturing into other markets both nationally and internationally, where the local economies are stronger, he says.

“We’ll continue to look at clients to partner with and put what’s best for the project first,” Meltzer says.  “We’ve always used that methodology and it comes across with clients in a way that we develop relationships and become friends.  This brings us repeat business and it’s a testament to our portfolio.”

PUBLISHED IN: Construction Today DATE:  Fall 2009