76SrdYql
A postcard of the Walburne Hotel, before it became La Villa Luisa.

First built in 1946, the Walburne Hotel stood at 125 Ocean Drive on South Beach. The architecture was a typical example of MiMo, or Miami Modern, influenced by both Art Deco and the Streamline Modern periods.

In the early-1980s, the hotel was bought and renamed La Villa Luisa. At that time, the neighborhood, including the hotel, became very rundown and was an area with a relatively high-crime rate. The hotel was sold in 1999 and boarded up by the new developers and remained in that situation until around 2004, when a new project for the property was announced.

In 2006, La Villa Luisa and the neighboring hotel were demolished to make room for the South of Fifth, or S5 condominium project. The facade of the former Walburne Hotel was rebuilt as part of the project, being called a successful modernization of the Art Deco district by the Historic Preservation Board.

South of Fifth opened in 2009 in the height of the recession. On November 2009, out of the 32-units available for purchase, only three were sold, forcing the property to be foreclosed on as the developer, BC Villa Luisa, struggled paying back a $73 million loan to New York-based iStar Financial. In early-2011, the lender obtained a final judgement of $90.8 million and took back ownership of the property.

Photo by key largo diver, 2006
Photo Credit: keylargo_diver, 2006 – The building was demolished to make room for a new condominium project.

7 Comments

  1. This hotel was called Villa Luisa way before the 80’s. I used to stay there as a kid in the 70’s. Where the owner Luisa lived.

  2. Yes, it was Villa Louisa since the early to mid seventies. Louisa and Joe owned it, and I stayed there as a kid, also, when visiting my grandmother who spent the winter there for many years. It may have been sold in 1999, but in the spring of 2000 I returned to visit, it was still called Villa Louisa and Louisa and her son Ralph were still there running the place. I took photos and a video on that visit and glad that I did, many great memories of the real Miami Beach.

    • My Grandmother lived there too…..we used to fly down to visit her from Jersey. We became friends with Luisa and her kids….Joey and Ralph Pigg. We also had dinner at her swanky condo on Collins Ave. All of us were Italian and had a great time there. Lots of music and parties all the time! We hung out with people from Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn….all of us were teens with Grandmothers living at the Villa Luisa! Lots of good times!!!

  3. This is really interesting. In the 50s and 60s my family vacationed every winter next door at the Seacrest Apts which I see is still there!!! Now that’s old Miami Beach!!!

  4. My mother was friends with Luisa back in the 70’s. The story goes that she purchased the hotel (there was also a Villa Luisa 2) after winning a case against the Miami Beach Police dept. when she was falsely accused of shoplifting. Yes, way before the 80’s. I remember as a kid going to her parties hosted at the hotel. Huge parties where she went around yelling, “Everyone, eat dance!” Great memories!

  5. I remember very well miss Luisa, I went there at he end of the 80’s with some friends, she was a particular woman, very nice and told us about his life and how he came to miami from Italy. Greetings from Italy.

  6. some of you may be confusing the original hotel directly across from the dog track with this hotel, villa luisa. i think the original was called the biscayne hotel, but my memory is sketchy and it was a long time ago. i lived there more than once, as a visitor and resident. i also worked with jack diamond at his snack bar in the streamline trailer underneath the 2nd tier of the parking lot of the mb kennel club. i spent more than 25 years on miami beach, most of it south of 41st street.