Posts By : The Miami Herald

This is why your favorite Miami restaurants are closing

BY CARLOS FRÍAS AND NICHOLAS NEHAMAS | MIAMI HERALD
AUGUST 26, 2016 7:00 AM


Mark Scharnitz was sick of doing all the work.

He built a small café, The Corner Muse, that helped breathe new life into Miami’s Edgewater district at a time when drug dealers and street walkers worked openly. But when the neighborhood came up, so did his rent. And at the end of his five-year lease, after he had renovated the space into a thriving restaurant, his landlord tried to nearly triple his rent — and forced him out when he couldn’t pay.

The upscale seafood restaurant Mignonette now stands where Scharnitz’s dream once did.

“You bring people there. You build up the neighborhood. And when your lease is up, they don’t care — you’re out,” Scharnitz said.

Restaurants, like artists, move into depressed neighborhoods where rents are cheap, hoping their fans will follow. And when they do, they are often the first ones priced out.

It’s happening across Miami.

In May, Michelle Bernstein’s signature restaurant in the Mimo neighborhood, CENA by Michy’s, closed after a 10-year run. So did Mimo’s The Federal, even after a drastic, last-ditch makeover.

A key culprit in both cases? Rising rents.

South Florida’s smoking-hot commercial real estate market is pricing restaurants out. Rents have quadrupled in popular areas such as Brickell, Wynwood and the Upper East Side over the last few years, brokers and developers say. (Renters are feeling the same heat on the residential side, too.)

“It’s almost like New York real estate right now,” said Ivo Tsinev, a broker at Colliers International South Florida who represents both national chains and chef-driven restaurants.

The region’s appetite for restaurants is insatiable, research shows. People are eating out more and shopping at grocery stores less.

To wit: In Miami’s greater downtown, restaurant sales hit nearly $735 million in 2014, according to the Downtown Development Authority. That was up 78 percent over 2013.

And South Florida diners are dropping more cash than ever: Consumer restaurant spending in the region is growing at the second-fastest rate in the country, new statistics from brokerage CBRE say.

Landlords see that success and are asking chefs to pay up — or get out.

The perks of being a landlord

Scharnitz decided it wasn’t going to happen to him again.

Five years ago, he bought a building “for a song” ($280,000 for 3,490 square feet of space) on Northeast 54th Street in the heart of Little Haiti. That was before speculators decided it could be the next Wynwood, when he still had to worry about getting robbed like one of his managers did.

He ran his catering business out of the back. In February, when he thought the neighborhood was ready, he opened Philly Grub, making authentic cheesesteaks with shaved sirloin and housemade cheese “whiz.”

The restaurant is part of Little Haiti’s gentrification, bringing with it adventurous new customers — as well as rapidly rising rents. It’s the same old story — even in neighborhoods that have yet to prove themselves, rising rents push out restaurants that blazed a trail.

“People told me I was crazy,” Scharnitz said. “And the crazier they told me I was, the more I knew I had to do it. If you don’t buy your building, there’s just no way you can do it.”

Bernstein, an international award-winning chef raised in Miami, knows all about the dangers of not owning your own space.

She grew up in Mimo — the Miami Modern district along North Biscayne Boulevard south of 80th Street — and led the neighborhood’s revival by using her name to draw fans to a desolate part of town. She and chef/husband David Martinez even bought a house there. They still live there, but their restaurant is no longer part of the neighborhood it helped build.

“It’s devastating,” Bernstein said at the time. “We totally vested ourselves in that neighborhood.”

The issue? The building was sold before they signed a lease extension and the new owners asked nearly three times the rent, almost $60 a square foot. Bernstein had even renovated the restaurant a year ago, thinking she’d be there long term.

For her fans, it was like Emeril Lagasse being priced out of New Orleans.

“It’s indicative of what’s going on and what is going to continue going on in Miami,” said CENA co-owner Steven Perricone, a former New York restaurateur and developer who bought the property for Italian restaurant and market Perricone’s in 1994, when Brickell was a fine-dining wasteland.

Finding an area like Brickell or, perhaps, Little Haiti or Little River, before it blows up is hard.

If a chef wants to open up in an already established neighborhood, owning just isn’t realistic, said Andreas Schreiner, who owns the Pubbelly restaurant group, with locations in Sunset Harbor and downtown Miami.

“It’s a nice dream to do it, but the way real estate prices are now, it’s a little prohibitive, especially on the Beach,” Schreiner said. “We’re looking to expand on the mainland, but even in places like Wynwood or the Midtown corridor, prices have really gone up. So to be able to purchase … it’s just too much.”

At the mercy of the market

Owning a restaurant is a risky business.

The industry is rife with turnover. Some spots close before people even know they are open, even excellent ones such as Bazi, which folded after less than six months in ultra-competitive South Beach, despite a 3 1/2-star Miami Herald review.

But what’s happening in South Florida’s restaurant scene now is different, experts say.

It took Tsinev, the broker, two years to find the perfect space for one client in downtown Miami. He’s even given up using commercial real estate databases to find locations, because there’s too much competition for not enough space. Instead, he cold-calls landlords, from Miami’s Parks and Recreation Department to the Dominican consulate, to see if they’re interested in leasing to a restaurant. (It’s working, he says.)

“The gap is getting wider and wider between what landlords need to recover and what the chefs and all of these restaurants can afford to pay,” Tsinev said. “I’m not saying we’re in a bubble. But I hope it starts slowing down soon.”

The debacle at CENA wasn’t the first time rents have displaced Martinez and Bernstein. Their Sra. Martinez in the Design District folded after their rents went from $15 a square foot to nearly $50, from one lease to the next.

Martinez is stunned at the rents landlords are asking today. In Little Haiti, prices are nearly $40 a square foot. Even in Allapattah, he is seeing landlords asking $30 a square foot compared to less than $10 a year ago.

“Rents go up before a neighborhood proves itself in Miami,” Martinez said. “Rents are going to have to come down unless landlords don’t mind seeing their buildings empty.” More and more restaurants are opening outside the traditional hotspots of Brickell and South Beach. Some chefs are looking to suburbs, such as Kendall and Doral, said CREC broker Rafael Romero. “It creates a bidding war,” he said.

Drew Schaul of leasing firm RKF agreed. “The market is as tight as it’s ever been,” he said. “There’s a limited supply of great restaurant space, especially for the higher-end, chef-driven restaurant concept.”

Not all the new competition is up to snuff.

Many wealthy foreigners see opening a restaurant in Miami as a better investment than leaving their cash in struggling Latin American and European economies, said Emran Ally, a broker at CBRE. Some of the investors don’t know how to run a restaurant or play the real estate market.

“A lot of those tenants overpay [for space] and then landlords start charging more and the menu prices rise and it’s a slippery slope,” Ally said.

And there’s another way Miami’s hot real estate market hurts restaurants.

Most retail leases require tenants to pay property taxes, maintenance and insurance, on top of monthly rent.

If a buyer comes in and scoops up a building for a big price, Miami-Dade County will likely assess the property at a higher value — raising the taxes and leaving the restaurant tenant on the hook for the higher bill. That’s in addition to the new owner asking more rent once the original lease expires.

There are signs South Florida’s commercial real estate market could slow down — but they’re still far off.

For one, Miami’s residential building boom is cooling as sales plummet, meaning retail developers will face less competition from condo projects. The threat of Zika could also hinder tourism in the region, depressing restaurant sales.

‘Feed the neighborhood and it will feed you’

Restaurants can only run so far. Eventually, rents catch up.

Fiorito Argentine restaurant was a pioneer when it moved into Little Haiti, a block north of the famous Churchill’s music venue, four years ago. Most of its customers are from outside the area. The restaurant is drawing people from Miami Shores and El Portal and helping build interest in Little Haiti.

But Fiorito has seen its rent triple since it moved in. The owners, brothers Maximiliano and Cristian Álvarez, hope to grow with the neighborhood, but they already suspect one day they might have to relocate.

“Rents have gone way up,” Maximiliano Álvarez said. “People are running from higher rents, but eventually they all go up.”

When rents go up, chefs can’t just charge more for mac ‘n’ cheese, the way a boutique might mark up yoga pants.

“People feel we’re trying to take advantage of them,” Álvarez said.

Several chefs said the best-run restaurants make about a quarter on every dollar. An average one gets eight to 10 cents.

“Our bread is expensive enough,” jokes Zak Stern, who has developed a cult following in Wynwood as Zak the Baker. “High-quality food shouldn’t just be for the very wealthy.”

But good neighborhoods need good restaurants. A restaurant like Zak the Baker can build a community in ways an Old Navy or Banana Republic can’t.

“You feed the neighborhood and it will feed you,” says Goldman Properties managing partner Joe Furst, quoting his former boss, the late real estate developer Tony Goldman.

When Zak the Baker was looking to open in Wynwood, Furst made it happen. Goldman — which owns more than 30 properties in the neighborhood — designed and built a space for him and financed the deal.

When it came time to open a full production bakery in the heart of Wynwood (set to open in September), Goldman offered Stern a 10-year lease and favorable terms to keep him from moving to Doral or Medley.

“It’s in their interest not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” Stern said.

Some landlords see the logic in cutting restaurants a bit of slack.

“The restaurants, they bring people every day,” said Craig Robins, the developer who owns roughly three-quarters of properties in the Design District.

Robins said he generally charges restaurants about 25 percent of what his retailers pay.

Although he makes more money renting to Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Gucci, he says restaurants are crucial to the success of the luxury shopping mecca.

“People go out to eat much more than they shop,” said Robins, who is planning to open 10 restaurants by fall 2017.

Major property owners like Goldman and Robins are the exception. Because they own so many properties, they can afford to rent to restaurants at a lower rate. Smaller landlords can’t always do that, if they’re thinking about the bottom line.

But focusing only on the bottom line can kill a neighborhood.

Just ask Coconut Grove. Landlords brought in retailers and national chains with no connection to the community in the 1990s and the crowds lost interest. Only now that more independent eateries are opening — 33 Kitchen, Ariete, Glass and Vine, Lokal, Panther Coffee and Strada, just to name a few — is Coconut Grove experiencing a revival.

It’s a lesson for Mimo, Little River, Little Haiti — and the chefs taking a chance on the next up-and-coming neighborhood. Your success could be your undoing, unless you buy in on the ground floor.

“Nobody’s going to tell me I have to leave,” said Philly Grub’s owner, Scharnitz. “I’m here for the long haul.”

Nicholas Nehamas: 305-376-3745, @NickNehamas

Carlos Frías: 305-376-4624, @Carlos_Frias

CEOs include yoga, spinning, swimming in their fitness routines

This week’s question: What do you do for exercise? As someone who works long hours, do you have any tips for staying motivated and healthy?
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I have a daily yoga and meditation practice. I also try and spin 2-3 days a week. I believe that committing to a “ healthy lifestyle” enhances both my work and personal life.
Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)
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South Florida CEO Roundtable: Time to panic about sea-level rise?

This week’s question: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being serenity and 10 being panic, how would you describe your outlook toward sea-level rise and South Florida’s economy?

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Five — while it’s certainly not time to panic, we do have to be willing to invest the time and resources to counter this long-term threat. Fortunately, steps are being taken at the local, state and federal level to address sea-level rise. But we must keep reminding policymakers about the importance of this issue so it doesn’t get lost amid the stories that make the daily headlines.

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

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As developers go on shopping spree, Miami retail has never been hotter

Miami Herald-Alan

There’s a gold rush on for retail in South Florida.

Developers and mall operators want to renovate and expand shopping centers across the region. New retail is popping up, too, especially open-air “high-street” shops with surprisingly gourmet dining — a breezy contrast to the enclosed suburban malls of old. The cost of all that investment runs into the billions.

The timing may seem odd, given the obstacles: Economic slowdowns in Latin America, Europe and China. A strong dollar slowing tourist spending and a shaky stock market here at home. More and more people shopping online. But experts say the Miami market’s fundamentals are strong and that there’s room to grow despite fears of oversaturation when the new projects open up.

“IT’S REALLY UNPRECEDENTED. THE SOUTH FLORIDA MARKET IS ON FIRE,” Alan Esquenazi, commercial real-estate broker

To list all of South Florida’s retail activity takes heroic resolve: A 500,000-square-foot, open-air shopping center under construction at Brickell City Centre is set to open this fall. Traditional powerhouse malls such as Aventura, where the ATMs dispense $100 bills, and Dadeland have expanded or are in the process of doing so. The ultra-luxury Design District will double in size in 2017. The Bal Harbour Shops would like to grow, too. In downtown Miami, the long-planned Miami Worldcenter project recently announced a major redesign. And city governments are spending big bucks to redo Miami-Dade’s iconic retail arteries onLincoln Road in Miami Beach, Miracle Mile in Coral Gables and Flagler Street downtown. Even industrial Doral is getting an influsion of upscale retail.

In Broward, Plantation’s Fashion Mall is set to be demolished and replaced by an open-air shopping center. Meanwhile, America’s largest outlet mall, Sawgrass Mills, is planning a new wing for full-price stores and fine dining while another developer wants to build a separate, 480,000-square-foot mall next door.

And then, of course, there’s American Dream Miami, a 200-acre complex slated for Northwest Miami-Dade. If given the green light by the county, it would be the U.S.’s largest mall.

For consumers, at least those who can afford the new shops, more and better options are a good thing in what analysts say is an underserved market. New jobs, even if mostly low-wage, will help the economy, too. But some locals worry that national chains geared toward wealthy tourists will keep squeezing out the small businesses that make South Florida unique. Either way, the growth isn’t stopping.

“It’s really unprecedented,” said Alan Esquenazi, a commercial real-estate broker at Continental Real Estate Companies. “The South Florida market is on fire. The demand from national retailers, as well as local and regional, is intense. The available space is lacking. Rents are rising quickly.”

No one is making a bigger bet on South Florida than a Maryland-based real-estate investment trust that just finished a major local shopping spree, spending $87.5 million on CocoWalk in Coconut Grove and $110 million on the Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami.

“We’ve always had a strong desire to be in South Florida,” said Chris Weilminster, executive vice president at Federal Realty Investment Trust. “This is a long-term play for us.”

Weilminster said that tourist dollars pouring into Miami, as well as strong local demographics, make retail a good buy.

Miami actually outsold higher-profile shopping destinations such as New York and Los Angeles in 2014, according to a commonly used statistic collected by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Sales for non-anchor tenants in South Florida averaged $768 per square foot in 2014, ICSC found, well ahead of New York ($581) and Los Angeles ($566), as well as the national average ($474).

“Everything is in this market’s favor, particularly in the two areas we are investing in,” Weilminster said.

But he and Federal’s partners, local developer Michael Comras and Coconut Grove-based Grass River Properties, know they have a long road ahead, one that could cost tens of millions of dollars, and likely more, in renovations and rebranding.

During a recent visit on a rainy weekday afternoon, CocoWalk was practically deserted. Even on sunny weekends, the four-story, 198,000-square-foot mall can feel a bit like the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, forgotten by locals and frequented instead by undiscriminating tourists and teens escaping mom and dad. The mall has had four different owners since 1998, not including the latest group. Vacancy rates hover at nearly 20 percent. Tiles are cracked, paint chipped.

“This really should be the crown jewel of Coconut Grove,” said Comras, who also recently partnered on a massive $370 million sale of an entire block on Lincoln Road. (That mega-deal, to Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega, is another sign of how badly investors want to nab South Florida retail, brokers say.)

“When you look at the areas that surround Coconut Grove from Coral Gables to Key Biscayne to Pinecrest to South Miami, you have the best demographics year-round in South Florida,” Comras added.

The new owners say they have plans to renovate CocoWalk and Sunset Place with sleeker, more contemporary finishes. They also want to relieve the heavy, fortress-like qualities that serve to cut the malls off from bustling downtowns in Coconut Grove and South Miami. That means bringing in a stronger mix of local, regional and national tenants ( “newer, cooler, hipper,” Weilminster said) and better dining options. They’ve tried things like weekly cooking classes at other properties to get people interested in reconnecting with their local malls.

“People want to be immersed when they shop,” Weilminster said. “You have to create something experiential … That’s how you get them off the couch and off the Internet.”

Federal owns more than 90 properties with 21 million square feet of retail in 12 states, including major developments in California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

For now, the company is playings its cards close to the vest on CocoWalk and Sunset Place. But it does plan to release complete details of planned renovations at both malls within the next two years.

“The raw material is great,” said Don Wood, Federal’s CEO. “The product’s not great. But we’re going to change that. We have to listen to what the community wants and what the retailers want. It takes time.”

“You can’t do what worked in San Jose and plop it down in South Miami or Coconut Grove.” The numbers don’t lie.

As the luxury condo boom dies down, retail has become one of the strongest sectors of the local commercial real-estate market. Retail vacancies of just 3.5 percent are near record lows for Miami-Dade County and are expected to fall even lower, according to a recently released report from TD Bank. Sales are up 4.5 percent, despite a strong dollar that has slowed tourist spending from Latin America and Europe, the report found.

“South Florida’s economic growth since the recession and the number of new people moving into the state have really ramped up retail,” said Michael Dolega, a senior economist at TD Bank.

Retail space across Miami-Dade rented for an average of $33 per square foot in the fourth quarter of 2015. That’s double the national average and 17 percent above Miami’s pre-recession peak in 2007, Dolega said. The hottest sub-markets are Brickell (more than $80 per square foot) and Miami Beach (more than $70 per square foot), the bank found. Prime real estate on Lincoln Road goes for more than $300 per square foot, according to brokers who work in the area.

The fastest-growing area in Miami-Dade? The Biscayne corridor along Miami’s historic MiMo district, where retail rents have soared an average of 12 percent per year since 2011 as developers open up new restaurants, hotels and shops, including a boutique from luxurydesigner Trina Turk. More and more young people are moving into the urban core. In the last 10 years, downtown Miami’s population has more than doubled to 80,000, according to the Downtown Development Authority.

But there are dangers: Federal Reserve bankers have warned of a possible bubble forming in commercial real estate. Eric Rosengreen, president of the Boston Fed, said in a speech late last year that low interest rates could cause investors chasing higher returns to take on too much risk, according to MarketWatch.

TD Bank, for its part, acknowledges that some markets may be too frothy, particularly the office sectors in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

But economist Dolega said Miami retail was not a high-risk market. “The risks do not appear to be concentrated in Florida,” he said, adding that local demand was high enough to absorb the new supply in the pipeline. “According to our projections, all the inventory is going to be absorbed through 2017.” Later in the decade, supply might start to outpace demand, but only slightly, he concluded.

“We would love to do more retail lending,” said Ernie Diaz, regional president for TD Bank.

Even single-tenant properties such as gas stations, banks, fast-food chains and pharmacies are hot, as long as the tenants belong to a well-run national chain, said commercial real-estate broker Alex Zylberglait. “Demand has been on the rise in the $1 million to $20 million range mainly due to interest from foreign investors,” Zylberglait said. “These assets are very hands-off and very safe, so they can put in the money and then sit back … And there’s a lot more demand than there is supply, meaning prices are rising.”

But Mitchell Kaplan, who owns local favorite Books & Books, said he worries that all of the money pouring into Miami retail will mean higher rents and the demise of many small businesses. The bookstore has locations in Coral Gables, Bal Harbour and on Lincoln Road, as well as at the Adrienne Arsht Center and Miami International Airport.

“Look at how Lincoln Road has lost its retail uniqueness,” Kaplan said. “You don’t want all of South Florida being dominated by national chain stores … locally owned, independent businesses can’t compete with the rents paid by the chains. We don’t operate on a level playing field.”

“Even the traditionally edgier places in Miami are seeing the influx of the national chains,” Kaplan continued. “Look at Wynwood, look at Coconut Grove. All neighborhoods in Miami have become places where investors now prospect. They buy up real estate. They seek national chains as tenants since their ability to pay high rents makes their properties more valuable, and then they often flip their properties, making lots of money. The question to be answered is: Does that make our community better?”

The mall that started it all

Even the shopping center that launched luxury retail in South Florida is looking to keep pace with the new activity.

Bal Harbour Shops, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, wants to build a new wing that would double its size to about 800,000 square feet. (First, it needs to gain voter approval for a land-swap deal and end a high-profile and increasingly ugly tussle with neighbors.) The open-air shopping center boasts tenants that are the crème de la crème of luxury retail: Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Chanel, Armani. With sales at about $3,000 per square foot in 2015, it remains the most lucrative shopping center in the U.S., according to CNBC.

But in recent years a few major tenants have left leafy Bal Harbour for bigger stores in newer locations. Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Cartier have all opened in the Design District, developer Craig Robins’ new Midtown mecca for ultra-luxury retail, which is itselfexpanding.

Vuitton also opened at Aventura Mall, owned by Turnberry Associates and Jackie Soffer, who is married to Robins. “Vuitton had a 5,000-square-foot store here at Bal Harbour,” said Matthew Whitman Lazenby, whose family developed and owns the shops. “They opened at 18,000 square feet in Aventura.”

Lazenby said the Bal Harbour expansion, which he called “hugely important,” would allow for stores to move into bigger spaces and would also create more restaurants and cafés. “That’s how we can differentiate ourselves,” Lazenby said. “With the experience we provide.” He added that if the shops had been allowed to grow five years ago, when his family first proposed the expansion, it likely would have been able to hold onto now-departed tenants.

Current tenants agreed.

Books & Books opened in Bal Harbour 10 years ago, and owner Kaplan said he supports the expansion at the shopping center, which he praised for renting to a local business. “The more stores and eating venues that surround us in the Shops, the better we do. More stores bring us more business.”

As for the Latin American currency crisis that has taken a bite out of tourist spending in Miami, Lazenby described it as a “temporary blip.” Bal Harbour’s business is roughly 80 percent tourist, 20 percent local.

As a result, he said sales have dropped about 10 percent in 2015. Other retailers that depend on foreign money have also reported sales dropping or flattening out.

“We’ve seen these cycles before, and we know they come to an end,” he said.

While the Miami market is down overall, Design District developer Robins said his brand-new project, where a flagship Hermès store just opened, is bucking the trend.

“Eleven out of 13 of our stores that were open in 2014 actually grew in 2015, and several averaged gains of 25 to 30 percent,” Robins said. “And we’re only 30 percent open.”

About 50 stores are open in the still-under-construction district, with that total expected to grow to more than 120 plus a hotel and 10 new restaurants by the end of 2017.

High-street style

One of the most obvious trends in Miami’s retail boom is a preference for open-air, high-street spaces on the model of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Traditional malls around the county have struggled as consumers turn to online shopping. Developers in South Florida want to piggy-back on the region’s good weather, despite the advantages of an enclosed space.

“There are some very obvious benefits to being enclosed, air-conditioned and fully controlled,” said Steve Patterson of the Related Group, which is developing a mixed-use project called CityPlace Doral with 250,000 square feet of open-air retail. “You have a shopping experience not impeded as much by weather. For the most part, it’s predictable. That’s great for retail. The downside to it is it’s expensive. The rents for the tenants are much higher than they would be for open-air.”

The most recent example of the shift toward high-street is Miami Worldcenter, a long-planned, $1.7 billion, mixed-use development in downtown Miami that was derailed by the financial crisis in 2008. The latest twist-and-turn for the back-on-track project came last month when the developers announced they were replacing a planned enclosed mall with asmaller, open-air shopping center. That means Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, Worldcenter’s original anchors, may drop out. They need bigger stores than the high-street retail model can provide. (Not to mention the fact that Macy’s, which owns Bloomingdale’s, has faced seriously slumping sales. Last month, the retailer announced it would lay off more than 4,000 workers and close 36 stores across both brands.)

“Our original plan was actually for high-street retail,” said Nitin Motwani, a principal with the Worldcenter development team. “But the retailers at the time didn’t quite understand what was happening in our dynamic market. They wanted a mall.”

But Motwani said that as once-deserted downtown Miami filled up with new condo towers, restaurants and museums, the needs of locals changed. They were ready to walk. “Because we had not yet started construction, we were able to realize that and design something that is more long-lasting and pays attention to the new norm for retail,” he said.

The new plan calls for one- and two-story shops laid out over several blocks in downtown Miami where the mall would have gone. Outdoor cafes and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, as well as a feature to provide shade, are all part of the plan, which hasn’t been released yet, Motwani said.

The projected opening date remains fall of 2018.

Meanwhile, in Plantation, Worldcenter partner Art Falcone is leading a redevelopment of the bankrupt Fashion Mall, built in the 1980s. Falcone plans to tear down the mall and instead build a 250,000-square-foot open-air shopping center with 700 rental units on 35 acres. “We’re targeting boutique tenants and smaller stores [for the retail],” Falcone said. “This is going to be a more Miami-type product than what you typically see in West Broward.”

Another open-air project gaining steam is Brickell City Centre, the massive mixed-use development set to open its retail component in the heart of Brickell this fall. Developer Swire Properties is partnering with Lazenby, of Bal Harbour, and retail giant Simon Property Group.

Brickell City Centre features an open-air, 500,000-square-foot shopping center cooled by an innovative climate ribbon. Swire, a Hong Kong-based developer with a long history in downtown Miami, said it learned how to make open-air projects in hot climates work from its experiences in sweltering East Asia. “You can look around and see how successful the outdoor experience is in South Florida,” said Debora Overholt, Swire’s vice president for retail. “The weather in Miami is one of the major attractions. People come here to enjoy that instead of being in an enclosed shopping mall.”

So far, Brickell City Centre has attracted high-profile tenants including Saks Fifth Avenue, which also anchors Bal Harbour; the luxury dine-in movie theater Cinemex; and, according to one source, Florida’s largest Apple store. “We really wanted to be in a premium market,” said Jaime Rionda, chief operating officer of Mexico City-based Cinemex. “The area of Brickell and the amount and quality of tourists that arrive every year and stay for days and even weeks is incredible.”

The company plans to open a 10-screen, 620-seat theater serving “sophisticated finger food” such as paninis, burgers and ceviche, Rionda said. Brickell will be its first U.S. location.

A future for old-school malls

While some traditional malls around the U.S. may be in trouble, Miami-Dade’s powerhouses are doing well.

Dadeland Mall in Kendall just completed a major redevelopment, adding a new 102,000-square-foot shopping wing and renovating and modernizing its food court. Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater also opened an expansion last year with five new restaurants and a 1,300-space parking garage.

And massive Aventura Mall, already Florida’s largest, is embarking on a redesign of its own with a three-story, 315,000-square-foot expansion expected to open in 2017. (That plan is being challenged in court by Sears, which wants to develop its own open-air shopping village.)

In addition to Vuitton, new high-end stores have opened at the 2.7-million-square-foot mall, including Pucci, Tiffany and Longines. Jackie Soffer, who co-owns Aventura Mall, said its dining options haven’t kept up with the tenant mix. New restaurants will be a major part of the expansion, as well as a VIP lounge, she said.

“We know where we have voids in our property, and one of the voids is food,” Soffer said. “We’ve now upgraded the selection from a shopping perspective. But with all the luxury sales we have in the mall, and the customers we have in the mall, we’re not catering to them as far as restaurants are concerned.”

The changes at the mall mirror the way developers have remodeled Miami as a destination for the global elite.

“Ten years ago, a person from New York used to eating at New York-quality restaurants would not have a huge selection [in Miami],” Soffer said. “Now they can come here and eat at a different restaurant every night for a month and not feel like they were sacrificing.”

South Florida CEO Roundtable: CEOs explain their social media policies

This week’s question: Does your company have a social media policy? If so, how do you advise your employees to behave online? If you don’t have one, please explain your reasoning.

We encourage our employees to share ideas, develop new business connections and engage in meaningful conversations online. Social media is a force that’s hard to ignore and one that can be beneficial when used wisely. I often get important community news and learn about national trends from Twitter and Facebook. We advise our team members to be respectful and professional when engaging on social platforms.

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

CEOs discuss Wynwood neighborhood’s future

This week’s question: Developer Moishe Mana’s proposal for a massive development in Wynwood has split local property owners, who worry it will overwhelm the neighborhood with tall towers and traffic. Do you think it’s time for artsy Wynwood to move in a grander direction? Or should it be developed on a more human scale?

Wynwood’s unique vibe is attracting people from all income levels and cultural backgrounds. It’s a melting pot of artists, restaurant and retail owners and entrepreneurs. Those who arrived early on see themselves as pioneers and their interests should be protected. Carefully planned developments like the one Moishe Mana is proposing can help further position Wynwood as a destination and meet demand for more commercial and residential space.

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

CEOs: Taking time off during the holidays is a good idea

This week’s question: How much time do you take off at the holidays? Will we find you working on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and other winter holidays? Why or why not?

I always try to take time off during the holidays to decompress and spend time with my family. That’s the plan for this year – barring any end-of-year client emergencies.

Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)

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CEOs ponder advice to give to their younger selves

I would tell my younger self to strive for a well-balanced life. While I love the fast-paced world of real estate, one of the biggest things I learned in my career was the importance of taking time…

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CEOs: Hands-on remains desirable

Hands-on ownership provides the foundation for CREC’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to the fast-paced needs of clients, including property owners, tenants, investors and lenders. As principals, Warren Wiser and I are deeply engaged with the day-to-day operations of our company…

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Meet the new Miami CEO roundtable

What do South Florida’s business leaders think of the most pressing civic and economic issues of the day? To answer that question, we established the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable, a panel of local chief executives…

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