Web Exclusive: A Florida icon reimagined

Located along the Intercoastal Waterway in Boca Raton, FL, the Boca Raton Resort & Club was once the height of sophistication and elegance—the go-to stop in southern Palm Beach County, where everyone dressed to the nines.

Today, it has been renamed The Boca Raton, has become an independent property—it previously was a Waldorf Astoria resort—and is currently undergoing a $200-million reimagining, which has been hailed as “a new golden era” for the resort. Phase 1 of the renovations is close to completion, with Phase 2 expected to be finished by the end of next year.

“When you look back at the history of this property, starting from 1926 and probably all the way through the mid-’80s, this was the place to go; it was on everyone’s bucket list,” said Daniel A. Hostettler, president/CEO of the resort, during a chat at Sadelle’s, one of its new restaurants. “Then, under the last couple of owners, that sort of disappeared—it just became a very nice Hilton by the water hosting conventions. The new golden era is getting back to [what it used to be], and repositioning the property back to being leisure. Of course, we’ll still do corporate groups, but much smaller groups and not conventions.”

The Cloister lobby

Built and owned by Florida-based architect Addison Mizner in 1926 as the Ritz Carlton Cloister Inn, the resort now features five distinct lodging facilities, Cloister (Mizner’s original building), Beach Club (which sits along the Atlantic Ocean), the ultra-luxurious Yacht Club, Tower (which is expected to reopen in July following extensive renovations) and Bungalows (which stands alone behind its own gate).

“One of the business models [with the reimagining] is really positioning the five lodging products with their own general manager and their own guest relations and front office teams,” said Hostettler. “And, we are positioning everything from the amenities to the way we market them to the way we dress the staff to fit that property.”

He continued, “The largest hotel we have is 220 rooms at the Beach Club, followed by 200 rooms at the Tower. The Beach Club has a little younger and hipper vibe, and it’s where the thirtysomethings with the young kids go, or where the thirtysomethings without kids go as sort of a Miami alternative. Then, we have the Tower, which will be very midcentury-modern. Rockwell Group [which designed the interiors] has done the rooms in a very elegant, Four Seasons standard. The Yacht Club is all suites, with only 100 rooms, and it’s run by one of my former GMs. There’s a butler on every floor and no children allowed.”

Cloister is connected to the 50,000-sq.-ft. Spa Palmera, complete with its own tranquility pool. Hostettler noted that “it’s where the history buffs are going to stay,” adding, “It’s for the aspirational guests who can’t quite afford the Yacht Club, the Tower or the Beach Club, but they can still have the Boca Raton experience.”

Bungalows was originally villas on the golf course and are all two-bedroom suites at 2,000 sq. ft. “They all have their own kitchen and dining room, with a sofa bed in the living room,” said Hostettler. “They also have their own fitness center, and we’re building them a nine-hole putting green.”

Back in the ’50s, Cloister was painted pink by former owners, the Schines. Subsequent additions and new buildings were built in pink to follow suit. The Tower, which could be seen for miles, was known as “the pink hotel.” Part of the renovations was returning Cloister to its original creamy, coastal white.

The adult pool at Harborside Pool Club

A new addition is the Harborside Pool Club, which features three pools; a 450-ft. floating river; water slides; luxury cabanas with personalized butler service; a Pool Bar serving cocktails and light bites; and Banyan Bunch kids club. Later this year, the Pool Club will expand even further with a FlowRider surf wave simulator, a 7,100-sq.-ft. event lawn, a teens’ lounge, retail experiences and new waterfront dining.

Besides the physical changes, one of Hostettler’s first priorities when he came aboard in April of last year was to remind his team to be hospitable to themselves and guests.

“When I started a year ago, it was like nobody made eye contact,” said the CEO, who previously served as president, Relais & Chateaux North America. “In the past, people never said good morning to each other. So, I gathered everybody together and said, “I’ve been here a week. Nobody says good morning to each other in the back halls or walking by each other.’ We weren’t open at that point. I said, ‘If you guys can’t say hello to each other and make eye contact, how are we going to deal with the guests?'”

Today, the entire staff—from the front desk clerks to the housekeepers to the guard manning the front gate—greet guests and club members with a smile and a “hello.”

The resort is the largest real estate asset in the Dell real estate portfolio, having been purchased by Michael Dell’s MSD Partners in June 2019 with the goal to bring it back to its “iconic” status, noted Hostettler. That includes focusing more on F&B offerings.

“Previously, when it was a convention hotel, food in restaurants was not that important because 80% of the business was banqueting, and the restaurants were something that you go have a drink before or after you go to a banquet,” he said. “Part of the repositioning is every restaurant has to be fabulous because now 60% of your guests are leisure guests on vacation who want great food. Your groups are also smaller, so a lot of them are entertaining in the restaurants instead of doing a banquet function. But, at the same time, [we’re not] dumbing down the banquet operation because it was the one thing here that didn’t need any reimagining.”


Four restaurants have been brought to The Boca Raton via a partnership with Major Food Group, which was very important in the reimagining process of the property because “it would have been almost impossible to concept 12 restaurants alone,” Hostettler pointed out. Those F&B outlets include Sadelle’s, The Flamingo Grill, Principessa Ristorante (expected to open in late May) and a forthcoming Asian restaurant.

Phase 1 is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Hostettler noted, and what remains is the “opening of the Tower, which is on track for July; Principessa Ristorante; and Major Food Group’s Asian restaurant with four bocce courts outside.”

He added, “Then, we have Flybridge, which is what we call our Michelin dining experience that’s going to be a Yacht Club exclusive. We’re also still concepting what goes at the top of the Tower. Historically, there was a beautiful restaurant up there. We’re in the midst of renovating that at the moment and deciding what that looks like, and that comes towards the end of the year.”

Phase 2, which has already started in the preplanning stage, is expected to be completed at the end of next year. It includes “the complete renovation of the rooms at the Beach Club,” said Hostettler. “We’re doing the models right now and trying to figure out exactly which furniture and floorplan we like so we can get all that ordered. So, this time next year, we can be doing a floor at a time and not have to take the entire hotel out of service. Phase 2 is also all of the retail, which we want to be done with by the end of the year. The old Valencia room, which has just been repainted, is about to be recarpeted, and that’s going to be a theater, and I’d like to get that up and running by the end of the year.”