The Vagabond Hotel's courtyard and pool — Photo courtesy of The Vagabond Hotel
From abandoned rubble to restored retro glam, The Vagabond Hotel has been resurrected at 7301 Biscayne Boulevard. The hotel is a marker of Miami Modern (MiMo) architecture, which was popular in Miami during the 1950s and 1960s and distinguished by its acute angles, decorative block work and maritime musings.
Despite its mid-century eminence, the closed property spent the last several years ridden by urban decay and vagrant misconduct. Area developers continuously overlooked The Vagabond and its neighboring MiMo outposts for their Miami Beach brethren. But developer Avra Jain knew the Vagabond would be a diamond in the rough and purchased the disheveled edifice in 2012.
After an estimated $5 million revamp and due to the developer's applaudable patience levels, The Vagabond Hotel (initially known as The Vagabond Motel when it opened in 1953) reopened its doors in August 2014, revealing a 45-room, off-the-road oasis.
"The biggest challenge was meeting modern code standards while keeping the aesthetic of the original design," explains Jain. "We tried to keep the additions as subtle as possible."
The Vagabond's mermaid mosiac — Photo courtesy of Vagabond Hotel Miami
Despite the challenge, the building's exterior remained mostly intact and received a preservationist-approved crisp white and cerulean blue paint job. Its relic, sea-shell, nymph and dolphin sidewalk sculpture went from all-white to pink and grey, signaling a new age for the once neglected postmark.
To boot, Jain created a replica of the motel's first street-side marquee; the bubbled vestige is speckled with little stars and lit up with the golden era's "air conditioned" and "vacancy" advertisements.
"We are excited to bring neon back to Biscayne Boulevard," exclaims Jain.
Over at the hotel's courtyard pool and bar, palm trees sway over a manicured lawn, dotted by custom-made chaises and loungers. The pool's Italian tile, mermaid mosaic was also meticulously restored.
"People will come by and say they remember seeing that mermaid when they swam here as kids," adds Jain. "It is really special."
Inside, guest rooms blend present-day commodities with an overarching playful vibe; the blue and white color palette continues within their walls, brightened by coral lamps, sea life-printed pillows and monochromatic accent walls. Several rooms were even able to keep their existing wood flooring.
Electra Deluxe Room at The Vagabond Hotel — Photo courtesy of The Vagabond Hotel
And what of The Vagabond Motel's original signboard? That, too, was dug up to be hung inside the forthcoming Vagabond Restaurant and Bar. Alex Chang, the eatery's executive chef, plans to plate dishes that tap into the "contemporary vagabond's" flavor profile, meaning tasty tidbits from around the world served in savory synchronicity.
"Everything here is a literal interpretation of the modern-day vagabond," says Chang, whose own Chinese and Mexican roots and Southern Californian breeding will "naturally seep into the menu."
When the restaurant debuts in November 2014, the kanpachi ceviche is an anticipated signature dish, featuring amberjack, yuzu, avocado and quinoa
Chang is best-known for his work with the underground supper club Paladar, which shook up the food world during its run at the University of Southern California's campus. After his accidental culinary career gained momentum, Chang set off to Japan to fine-tune his skills at Les Creations de Narisawa, a restaurant currently ranked #14 on "The World’s 50 Best Restaurants" list.
Chang is backed by gallerist and restaurateur Alvaro Perez Miranda, whose haunt will beam with throwback luxuries and off-kilter art. In addition to the motel's original signage, slated design highlights include a sunken center bar, vertical garden and constellation-inspired lighting.
Miranda also plans to set his keen eye on the property's community incentives, spearheading The Vagabond's artist residency program and event space culture.
"We want to revitalize the area without pricing it up," adds Chang, "This concept could only exist here. It had to be here."