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Once Decrepit Miami Hotel Returns as Low-Income Housing

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Here now, Past Lives, in which Curbed contributor Chris Berger explores what some of the country's most interesting residential buildings used to be before they became livable homes. Care to suggest a building with a fascinating past life? Do drop us a line.

A number of historical Miami hotels have been converted into residences in recent years, but none serves a more important purpose than the Royalton. Built in 1923 at 121 SE 1st Street, the Neo-Classical Revival Royalton Hotel was a swank destination. It was rumored to be a speakeasy during Prohibition, and Al Capone was said to have played cards on the top floor. But by the 1990s, the Royalton was a dive, and the seven-story building's roof leaked all the way to the ground floor. Though it was one of the last 1920s hotels in the area, demolition seemed the logical next step when Carlisle Development bought the building for $3.5 million in 2004.

? Carlisle had better plans. The company teamed up with Carrfour Supportive Housing, a nonprofit dedicated to Miami's homeless, to convert the building into low-income housing. The co-developers corralled $18.5 million in financing from local, state, and federal sources.

? To qualify for $2.1 million in historic tax credits, the rehabilitation—directed by Beilinson Gomez Architects—had to comply with the Secretary of the Interior's standards. Restorers matched the original exterior paint color, uncovered the enclosed loggia, and re-laid the terrazzo flooring.

? Further, the Royalton's ceiling, windows, and decorative details either were repaired or replaced in kind. The 100 former hotel rooms, which range from 200 to 265 square feet, would have been too small for market-rate residences but were suitable for transitional housing. Kitchenettes were added to each studio apartment. The building also includes a classroom, computer lab, and a television and meeting room.

? Residents are carefully selected by Carrfour and must be alcohol and drug free for six months before they can move in. Once at the Royalton, Carrfour provides them with help finding jobs, financial management workshops, and Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Rent is based on income.

Photos: Beilinson Gomez Architects

? The Royalton is a former eyesore that has been carefully restored to its former grandeur and offers a link to Miami's past. But, more importantly than that, it's a clean, comfortable, and conveniently situated home for people who want to regain control of their lives.

· Royal Treatment [Multifamily Executive]
· Renovated hotel opens its doors to homeless [The Miami Herald - PDF]
· The Royalton [The National Trust for Historic Preservation]