Plans to refashion the Miami Beach mansion of designer Gianni Versace into a hotel have been altered, reported USA Today on May 10, 2002.
Instead, the elegant ocean-view Casa Casuarina, where Gianni was gunned down at the front gates in July 1997 is now being repitched as a ''very exclusive, international membership club,'' says Kathryn Slye, a lawyer representing Peter Loftin, the Raleigh, North Carolina telecommunications magnate who owns the estate. ''We're trying to bring back the chic heyday of South Beach and bring (jet-setters) back.''
In September 2000, BTI Telecom Corp. founder Loftin bought the villa for $19 million and later decided it would become a super-luxury all-suite hotel, charging upward of $2,000 a night. The plan was approved by the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board.
But in the course of drawing up hotel plans, ''we were afraid it would lose its wonder if anyone with a couple of thousand bucks could come in,'' Slye says. ''We wanted to keep its exclusivity . . . maintain its mystique.''
Details of the club are being worked out, she says, but perhaps 300 members would have access to 11 sumptuous suites, a restaurant and cigar lounge. The idea is to create something similar to Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, a few hours' drive to the north. Trump turned the opulent estate into a private club where members, who now pay $150,000 to join, can stay and play.
Versace's Ocean Drive home, which began life 72 years ago as the roost of a Standard Oil executive, were remodeled and expanded when he bought the property in 1992. The stained-glass windows, frescoes and statues dazzled the designer's guests, including Madonna and Elton John.
The mansion at 1116 Ocean Drive remains a magnet for camera-toting tourists. And they'll probably have to remain content with standing outside its gates!