Originally created 08/05/98

Groundbreaking for nation's first major black-owned hotel



MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- The nation's first major black-owned hotel will feature an oceanfront setting and the facades of two Art Deco buildings, but the symbolism of the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Resort is bigger than the project itself.

The $64 million hotel -- the centerpiece in a 20-point plan to end a black tourism boycott of Miami -- is committed to hiring minorities for half its staff and at least a quarter of senior management.

"We are building a symbol of economic opportunity that will forever change the social landscape of our country," Washington developer and project leader R. Donahue Peebles said at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.

The combination resort and convention center hotel on South Beach's famed Collins Avenue is one of more than 20 major hotels planned nationally by Peebles in the next five years. His work follows an NAACP campaign examining the track record of the nation's hotel chains in minority hiring and business development.

"We can lay to rest the fact that there is not a black-owned hotel or resort in this nation," said Leon Russell, Florida president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a national board member. "We look forward to many more such opportunities."

The boycott was launched in 1990 when the Miami city commission snubbed visiting anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, now South Africa's president, for his refusal to repudiate Cuban President Fidel Castro.

It ended in 1995 when civic leaders agreed to plans intended to halt what boycott leader Marilyn Holifield called "deeply entrenched economic exclusion."