Owners of the Clevelander Hotel Propose Converting Historic Property to Affordable Housing Development

Jesta Group, a real estate investment firm based in Montreal, purchased the Clevelander Hotel and the adjacent Essex House for $28.5 million in 2018.

The wildest Spring Break hotel on South Beach may soon be the saving grace for local residents desperate for affordable housing. A redevelopment project is being proposed for the historic Clevelander Hotel in Miami Beach, which would involve converting the Art Deco property into a 22-story residential tower with an affordable housing component. 

Jesta Group, the hotel owner, has stated that the project’s success depends on the Live Local Act. This recently enacted state law offers tax breaks and zoning workarounds to incentivize the development of affordable and workforce housing. The proposed plans include a high-end restaurant on the ground floor of a 22-story structure that would maintain the historic Art Deco façades of the Clevelander and Essex while converting the hotel into a residential development. Jesta is also behind a $300 million plan to redevelop the North Bay Village’s Shuckers Bar & Grill site. The firm would potentially look to relocate the Clevelander within South Florida.

“Since purchasing the Clevelander Hotel and Bar a few years ago, we have been proud to operate this legendary and iconic establishment in South Beach. Although we are happy to continue operating as we have, some have expressed a desire that we change our business model at the property,” Jesta Group senior managing director Anthony O’Brien says in a statement to The Miami Herald. “With the Live Local Act, we now have a unique opportunity to do that.”

In March, Florida legislators passed the Live Local Act, a comprehensive $711 million plan to construct affordable housing units, provide tax breaks to incentivize new construction and offer interest-free loans to afford down payments. The law took effect in July and allows developers to bypass local zoning laws on height and density if they allocate at least 40% of residential units in their projects as affordable for a minimum of 30 years. Affordable units are those suitable for households with earnings up to 120% of the area median income, which is approximately $75,000 in Miami-Dade County.

Of all the Art Deco hotels on Ocean Drive, the Clevelander, built in 1938, is one of the most iconic, but also the noisiest, attracting partygoers from around the world to its streetside pool and patio. It epitomizes what city leaders have been trying to change about the party culture of South Beach, and in 2021, when the city tried to tighten the alcohol sale curfew from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m., the Clevelander owners successfully sued the city to remain open till five.

Photo rendering courtesy of Jesta Group

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.