St. Regis at 9701 Collins Ave.
St. Regis at 9701 Collins Ave. (J. Albert Diaz)

The $213 million sale of a trophy beachfront hotel in Bal Harbour is just the first in a crowded pipeline for hospitality transactions, South Florida real estate dealmakers told the Daily Business Review, noting 2014 is likely to be a big year for hotel sales.

Suzanne M. Amaducci-Adams, a partner in the Miami office of Bilzin Sumberg Price Baena & Axelrod who leads the law firm’s hospitality group, said she expects various large hotel sales to go through in the near future.

Starwood Hotel and Resorts Worldwide Inc. announced Wednesday that it had sold the hotel component of the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort and Residences to the real estate arm of Qatar-based Al Rayyan Tourism Investment Co.

“I know that there’s some big transactions in the works,” said Amaducci-Adams, who was not involved in the St. Regis Bal Harbour deal. “Last year, we were doing a lot of refinances. Now, we’re doing more big sales.”

Amaducci-Adams, who called the region a “darling of the hotel world,” explained the high level of interest in South Florida hotels at the moment has given rise to large transactions—as opposed to, for instance, new construction.

“The Miami hotel market is incredibly strong, but our market has very high barriers to entry. They’re not building more hotels on the water,” she noted.

It’s not just prime waterfront property that’s likely to see a boost in sales this year, another dealmaker told the DBR.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented recovery in hospitality and a lot of hunger for properties,” said Marc Shuster, a partner at the Miami office of Berger Singerman. He added large hotel chains were calling him “every day to ask me if there’s available product.”

“Miami’s market is such that it benefits everything, from select service all the way to trophy properties.”

The dynamics of the St. Regis Bal Harbour deal might provide a template for future transactions, both attorneys said. In that sale, Starwood will keep operating the property under its St. Regis brand, creating an income stream without the associated risks of actually holding a hotel property.

“The sale of this trophy asset marks another step forward in Starwood’s pursuit of an asset-light strategy as we look to sell owned real estate at the right time to the right owners to create value for our shareholders,” Simon Turner, president of global development for Starwood, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, large foreign buyers, notably from the Middle East, have a strong preference for adding trophy properties to their overseas investment portfolio.

“The large institutional property investors are looking for trophy properties,” Amaducci-Adams said. “A lot of the family investors are looking at boutique hotels. Different people want different things, so different people have different investment criteria.”