Inside Gloria Estefan's $15 Million Cardozo South Beach Hotel Renovation
The majority of us are familiar with Gloria Estefan as the multi-Grammy-winning singer and pop artist who began her career as the front woman of Miami Sound Machine—remember "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You?"—and then developed a highly successful solo career. Generally, we do not conceive of her as a hotelier. As it happens, she and Emilio, her husband, frequent collaborator, and fellow Sound Machine graduate, have owned multiple hotels in and around Miami since she and her family fled Cuba in 1959, when she was a kid. The Estefans currently own two hotels, both in Florida: Vero Beach's Costa d'Este Beach Resort & Spa and Miami's Cardozo South Beach, a 1939 Art Deco gem on Ocean Drive that reopened last week following a three-and-a-half-year closure and $15 million renovation led by the Estefans.
As the Cardozo prepared to unveil its new look on May 15, we spoke with Estefan about the hotel's next chapter, some of her favorite sites in Miami, and her travel must-dos.
Could you please inform us about your relationship with the hotel?
After I became a member of the Miami Sound Machine and our music became global, we began to earn substantial money, and both Emilio and I want diversification. I indicated that I believed we should invest in real estate, specifically Ocean Drive homes. We began with a little apartment complex, then acquired the Shore Park Hotel and finally the Cardozo. When I informed my mother that we had purchased it, she reminded me that when I was three years old, my family was having a small family gathering on the beach directly across from that hotel with my father, just before he left for the Bay of Pigs invasion. I turned to him, pointed to the Cardozo, and informed him that when I became wealthy, I intended to purchase the hotel for him.
How does the renovated hotel fit with Miami's ever-changing landscape?
We've owned the Cardozo for nearly three decades and have remodeled it several times, but this is the most substantial and in-depth remodel we've ever undertaken. It has the feel of a brand-new hotel, with a fresh, sleek, clean, and unpretentious appearance, and its design pays homage to the hotel's heritage in a variety of ways.
We restored several elements of the hotel's 1930s origins, including the terrazzo floor in the old lobby, and enlarged its Art Deco look with rounded lines on new windows and herringbone patterns on new floors in various sections. In the hallways, we have photo montages of several of the films that were shot here, starting with Frank Sinatra's 1959 A Hole In The Head and continuing through Bird Cage and There's Something About Mary.
Are you willing to share a secret or hidden stretch of beach with us?
I will always have an emotional connection to the beach on Collins Avenue and 35th Street, as here is where Emilio and I used to go while we were dating and later took our son when he was born. Additionally, the beach directly off the pier on South Pointe features crystal clear water and an inviting atmosphere.
Where do you go for live music in the city?
Little Havana is home to some amazing establishments that provide live music. Ball & Chain not only features fantastic salsa and jazz bands, but it is also a historic venue that has hosted musicians such as Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Chet Baker. Hoy Como Ayer is another fantastic spot with excellent Cuban music.
Michelle Bernstein, a dear friend and award-winning chef, recently established Cafe La Trova, which features an incredible "bar within a bar" where disco and new wave music reign and the cocktails mirror the best of 1980s cocktail culture.
What are your favorite city escapes?
One of my favorite day trips has been to the Everglades for an air boat ride, which I took on a field trip with my daughter's fifth grade class. She is currently twenty-four years old. However, it was one of my favorite activities in the city.
Which vacation would you recreate if you could?
I'd love to repeat our family's 2011 trip to Egypt. We took a voyage down the Nile, escorted by one of the country's foremost historians and archaeologists. It was truly wonderful in every sense.
We've had a great time traveling on cruises with our extended family. We used to do it annually, but have been so busy in recent years that we were unable to do so until this past New Year's Eve, when we embarked on a week-long cruise with 46 of our family and friends. We also like our family ski trips to Colorado's Aspen, Vail, and Beaver Creek. These excursions have resulted in some of our most cherished family memories.