Emilio and Gloria Estefan have breathed new life into the Cardozo Hotel, a historic Miami Beach landmark.
After four years and $15 million in renovations, the celebrity owners have reopened the Ocean Drive fixture.
“The whole thing is new,” Emilio Estefan said. “Bathrooms, floors, air conditioners. That’s why it took us four years. I said if we’re going to do it, let’s do it first class.”
The historic hotel was built in 1939 and named after Benjamin Cardozo, a former U.S. Supreme Court justice. It’s been featured in the following films: “A Hole in the Head” (1959), “The Birdcage” (1996), “There’s Something About Mary” (1998), “Any Given Sunday” (1999) and “Marley & Me” (2008).
The Estefans bought the Cardozo Hotel in 1992, having updated the hotel twice since this massive renovation.
“People said, ‘Why are you buying on Ocean Drive? It’s all old people,’ ” Emilio Estefan said. “Everything changed and you have to go with the changes. Ocean Drive represents Miami, it’s a perfect example of what Miami is all about.”
Whether the investment at the time was sound or not, it was destiny for the Estefans. According to the hotel’s website, “while sitting on a bench with her grandfather, young Gloria pointed across the street at the Cardozo Hotel and said, ‘I am going to buy that hotel one day.’”
Her dream became a reality, and together with her husband they transformed it into a must-see landmark.
“Seeing the way it has evolved into the vibrant cultural and entertainment destination it is today gives us great pride,” Emilio Estefan said. “Of course, Miami’s beautiful beaches will always be a main draw for visitors, but it’s the city’s culture, architecture, nightlife, and people that continue to make it one of the most popular destinations in the world.”
Miami-based architect Aldo Ducci, with the help of Emilio Estefan, mapped out the remodel of the three-story, 41-room hotel, which blends modern design with original decor.
“Gloria and I grew up in Miami and have a deep passion for this city,” Emilio Estefan said. “For Gloria and me, redesigning our Cardozo hotel, in a way, mirrors the evolution Miami has experienced. We’ve maintained Cardozo’s historical, Art Deco exterior that initially captures you, but we have completely redesigned the interior and how our guests will experience this hotel.”
The facade of the building remained the same because the hotel is historically designated, but this gave the Estefans the opportunity to pay extra care and attention to the interior. The music mogul and superstar singer incorporated art and furniture from their own home.
“I wanted to make something like I feel when I go to my house,” Emilio Estefan said. “We travel all over the world and we know things that work and things that don’t work. It has to be simple, comfortable, great beds, great showers.”
The original lobby was also transformed into BiCE Cucina Miami, a brand new Italian restaurant. Guests can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner there in addition to ordering room service from it.
Emilio Estefan had a personal hand in reimagining the third-floor, 1,500 square-foot penthouse suite. The suite spans the width of the hotel thanks to its two master bedrooms and master bathrooms, a private dressing area, a dining room, a living room and an additional guest bathroom.
Spokeswoman Jessica Milton called the penthouse suite, which has a panoramic view of South Beach, the “crown jewel” of the Cardozo Hotel.
“It’s the type of environment, type of space, a person like that would need when traveling to Miami,” she said.
The grand opening of the new-and-improved Cardozo Hotel is planned for June 12.
Melissa’s career in writing started more than 20 years ago. Today, she lives in South Florida with her husband and two boys.