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Hotel-Enhanced Mixed-Use Gets a Lift from Shaquille O’Neal

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25 September 2006
Last week at The Lodging Conference in Phoenix, hotel-enhanced mixed-use was one of the hot topics which everyone was talking about. A recent example of this trend was reported in the September 19 news that Miami Heat basketball star and NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal is getting involved in a high-profile mixed-use project. He has formed The O’Neal Group, a real estate firm that plans big real estate projects across the country. Its first venture is with MDM Development in a $1 billion mixed-use project in downtown Miami. The so-called Met Miami will include an office tower, 1,100 residential units, a supermarket, a 24-hour fitness center and a high end Marriott hotel. O’Neal, who has amassed a real estate portfolio worth $50 million over recent years, will be involved in the sales and marketing arm of the development operation.

“This is not only a real estate deal, we want people to live how they want to live, so we’re going to have a Whole Foods inside, a 24-hour Fitness inside,” and other retailers, O’Neal said after the Met Miami news conference, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

O’Neal also will continue to play basketball, given that he has three years left on the contract he signed with the Miami Heat after being traded from the LA Lakers in 2004. The star’s involvement in Met Miami may be a mixed blessing. As a high-profile athlete, O’Neal’s commitment to mixed-use (the term was used at the Met Miami press conference) will likely give a lot more public attention to this burgeoning category of real estate. His $1 billion bet on mixed-use will be analyzed by pundits, sports fans and big investors, a much larger audience than is customary for real estate projects. The international media will be covering every step – and mistake – in building the Met Miami; consider that The China Daily, The Toronto Globe and Mail and Israel’s Haaretz were among the many newspapers that covered the formation of the O’Neal Group.

Met Miami could raise public consciousness significantly for hotel-enhanced mixed-use – , an idea I have been talking about for some time now (see, for example, my September 7 blog posting). It could further validate investor and developer interest, but it will also shine a bright spot light on any planning, design or legal missteps. Let’s hope the O’Neal Group and the rest of the industry is ready to take hotel-enhanced mixed use to the next level where it belongs.

Our Perspective. We represent developers, owners and lenders. We have helped our clients as business and legal advisors on more than $125 billion of hotel transactions, involving more than 4,700 properties all over the world. For more information, please contact Jim Butler at or 310.201.3526.

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