The South Pacific: from Motel to Wotel
written by Jorge Planas
The South Pacific Motel
6300 Biscayne Boulevard
Year Built: 1953
Architect: Charles Giller
Located at 6300 Biscayne Boulevard, the South Pacific is one of the most photographed buildings within the MiMo Historic District, from its unique and whimsical façade to the vintage neon sign. The signage alone makes the building an incredible backdrop for a dramatic photo shoot or a memory snapshot for a visiting tourist. Even more striking when lit, it becomes an alluring evening beacon.
While many of us appreciate what remains of the South Pacific, it must be acknowledged that approximately half of the structure’s facade no longer exists. It is this struggle between what was and what remains that engenders a greater appreciation for MiMo architecture and its significance.
The South Pacific was built in 1953, by architect Charles Giller. It is a modest garden style tourist lodging that hosted a growing middle-class population. Simple in design, it stands true to MiMo tenets of fun resort architecture. In its heyday, bright orange and red chairs as well as matching umbrellas accented the pool courtyard. The building comprised three main structures: an office fronting the Boulevard, the motel apartments towards the back, and the corner pool courtyard no longer extant.
The original parapet façade angled into the ground, as if swallowed by the earth, echoing the angle of the office’s slanted gabled roof. The façade is still covered in a stone veneer, commonly found throughout the district, laid out in this unique angled pattern. The now missing façade served as a garden wall screening the pool courtyard. The South Pacific’s main entrance opened in the center of the parapet and featured a projecting concrete bolt. The parapet was capped with a saw tooth motif allowing for the interplay of light and shadow in the bright Florida sun.
A neon sign spelled out “MOTEL,” slightly angled and facing southbound lanes of boulevard traffic making the signage more legible to passing motorists. In addition, anchored in the former pool courtyard, a modified pylon carried additional neon signage adding to the MiMo flair.
The motel apartments were located in a separate building behind the pool. The apartments are a simple box with clean lines and a cantilevered outdoor circulation and roof overhang. The apartments were neatly organized, ten per floor, five facing the street, five mirroring the interior lot on two levels, totaling twenty apartments.
Still a motel in 2013, Trip Advisor described the South Pacific as “very basic cheap hotel…”. Since then, fellow MBA Board Member Avra Jain and her team have embarked on another restoration within MiMo. Now dubbed the “Wotel,” as in “work,” this treasured building will reflect a new adaptive reuse as a hub for boutique offices and an upscale restaurant.
Bringing offices into our district helps support other local businesses, injects a new purpose into the old motels, and increases the mix of users within the Boulevard. Whether a restoration, a renovation, or brand new construction, a curated mix of uses serves us well.