Posts Tagged : Rafael Romero

The shoppers are coming

The shoppers are coming

Brokers say the shifting demographics of a growing population help make the case for prospective retail tenants to sign on the dotted line



By The Real Deal

In pitching new retailers on why they need to open a location at Downtown Dadeland, Continental Real Estate Companies’ (CREC) Vice President Rafael Romero presents a flyer featuring photos of the well-known local chefs behind four restaurants that have opened in the past 18 months at the retail and residential development in Kendall.

Romero tells prospective tenants about how restaurants like Barley, an American Brasserie; Harry’s Pizzeria; Pubbelly Sushi; and Ghee Indian Kitchen are reshaping the 7.5-acre Downtown Dadeland into a destination that will draw in affluent consumers from throughout South Florida as well as those living in the immediate area, where the estimated median household income is $137,237.

“Those establishments are part of a concentrated effort to create a restaurant row that has completely revitalized Downtown Dadeland,” Romero said. “To get them, we went to every chef event we could find in South Florida. If there was a croquet contest and they were there, we were there, too.” 

At a time when many brick-and-mortar brands continue downsizing or disappearing altogether from the American retail landscape, South Florida commercial brokers are courting tenants with sales pitches that focus on the region’s growing population and changing demographics.

The tri-county region added about 482,000 residents between 2010 and 2016, according to a March 2017 report by Florida International University analyzing recent U.S. Census figures. That growth has largely been fueled by immigrants —  the university’s report found that net international migration to the region increased 397 percent in that period. It remains to be seen how President Trump’s immigration policies could affect this trend.

To land some tenants, the brokers are working with landlords to revamp existing properties and configure new developments into experiential destinations. They’re also giving start-up businesses and established brands short-term leases to test out empty storefronts. And some good old-fashioned networking helps to land deals, too.

“Cold-calling and being a voice on the phone is not enough,” Romero said. “You need to get in front of them, show them pictures and explain the vision to get them to buy in. It is more than just promoting a building. You have to create a scene for them.”

To be sure, retail real estate is performing better in South Florid than in other parts of the country. Colliers International’s second-quarter retail report showed Miami-Dade’s vacancy rate was just 3.8 percent, Broward’s was 3.7 percent, and Palm Beach’s was 4.5 percent.  In comparison, the national retail vacancy rate rose to 10 percent in the same period, according to real estate research firm Reis Inc. And a recent report from online real estate marketplace Ten-X placed Miami and Fort Lauderdale in the first two slots of its top “Buy” markets for retail investors, forecasting  that the metropolitan areas will experience a combined 14 percent growth in net operating income by year’s end.

However, local asking rents are growing at a slower pace than the 3 percent national rate, per JLL’s 2017 spring retail report for South Florida. In the second quarter of 2017, asking rents only ticked up 1 percent in Miami-Dade, 2 percent in Broward and 2.7 percent in Palm Beach. The brokerage also placed Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach among 15 cities that have reached the peak of the market cycle.

A more anecdotal sign that South Florida is not immune to the shrinking base of department, apparel and accessory stores is the fact that brokers are concentrating more on fitness tenants like indoor cycling studios and fighting gyms as well as entertainment providers such as bowling alleys and luxury movie theaters .

“There is not much deal flow for traditional apparel and trinket sellers,” Romero said. “These other categories have stepped in and given rise to the lifestyle center.”

Robert Granda, commercial brokerage Franklin Street’s South Florida retail director, said he is advising landlords he works with to target start-up business owners doing old school concepts like luxury barbershops and cigar bars.

“It could be a barber from Los Angeles or New York who is looking to open his first location,” Granda said. “Typically, landlords would like to see a track record. I will tell them men’s grooming and barbershops are hot tenants because they provide services that are driven by the experience of being there.”

To attract a retailer, some landlords are willing to offer short-term leases for pop-up stores, says Rod Castan, president of leasing and management for Courtelis Company. The property owner gets to temporarily fill an empty space while the tenant gets to test out a storefront, he explained.

“You will see landlords willing to take chances on incubating a retail concept,” Castan said. “That is a method we have used in Florida’s softer markets.”

For instance, House 2 Home Goods — a tenant at the Shops of Surfside in Cape Coral — opened under a three-month lease in February but in May converted to a longer term agreement, Castan said. In Miami, French macaron maker Ladurée opened a permanent spot in the Design District in June 2016 after testing out a two-month pop-up inside the Chrome Hearts boutique at 4025 Northeast Second Avenue during 2015’s Art Basel.

In other instances, the national retail slowdown means Castan’s team has to make more cold calls and do more face-to-face meetings with potential tenants. “We are rolling up our sleeves and doing old-school leasing … Our agents are on the road almost every day visiting other shopping center and trade areas looking for potential tenants.”

The promise of a development that has a social center is what gets many retailers to sign on the dotted line.

In Pembroke Pines, Courtelis has been successful in preleasing 75 percent of the 300,000-square-foot retail, entertainment and restaurant space at Pines City Center. Developed by Terra Group, the 47-acre mixed-use development is being built in two phases, with the first scheduled for completion by 2018. Major tenant signings include Publix, Carl’s Patio, Cooper’s Hawk, BurgerFi and Outback Steakhouse.

“These types of projects tend to have more attractive common areas and are better gathering places from a development standpoint compared to traditional shopping centers,” Castan said. “Bringing in ethnic, fast casual and healthy dining concepts is another way to make the projects more successful.”

Castan said he and his team show potential tenants renderings of Pines City Center to point out the features that will draw people in. “The center has transitional plazas between buildings and attractive rotundas, and the parking areas are planned to be more pedestrian-friendly,” he says. “These areas create gathering spaces where we can have pop-ups, art exhibits, music and other features that will make the shopping center more interesting to visit.”

Another large-scale mixed-use development that is following a similar retail recruitment strategy is Metropica, which has leased about half of its 485,000 square feet of retail. In all, the 4 million-square-foot development in Sunrise will have more than 2,200 residential units in addition to retail, dining and entertainment space, a wellness and fitness facility, a park and other recreational amenities.

“In the past, landlords would need a department store or a big box retailer as an anchor tenant,” says Sandie Witmer, in-house director of retail leasing for Metropica. “Today, the environment you create is the anchor.”

Witmer’s leasing team has been working on a curated restaurant collection as one of Metropica’s “environment anchor” concepts. “Retailers now look at the restaurant mix to see if it attracts different types of clientele,” Witmer says. “If they think someone eating there could be a customer, they want to be there, too.”

Using this strategy, the $1.5 billion megadevelopment has signed popular eateries like Harry’s Pizzeria, Bulla Gastrobar, Shake Shack and Fogo de Chao to go alongside entertainment tenants iPic Theaters and Kings Bowl and retailers such as Anthropologie and Kendra Scott Jewelry.

So far, retail leasing in South Florida remains strong enough and vacancy rates are low enough that brokers and landlords don’t need to offer “crazy concessions,” said CREC’s Romero.

“We’ve been in the single digits for a very long time,” he said. “Retail is very much alive.” 

Get ready. Amazon-Whole Foods deal will change how you buy food forever

Get ready. Amazon-Whole Foods deal will change how you buy food forever

, USA TODAY Published 12:05 a.m. ET June 18, 2017 | Updated 6:25 a.m. ET June 19, 2017

The Amazon-Whole Foods deal is expected to lead to lower prices and other changes across the industry. (Photo: Eric Gay, AP)

 

For anyone in the business of selling, supplying or hauling groceries: Things just got real.

Amazon.com’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods instantly makes it a major player in the U.S. grocery industry and that leaves a lot for shoppers, retailers and other companies involved in the industry to chew on.

The online seller is bringing its firepower to a grocery industry plagued by razor-thin profit margins. The move could slice into profits for food manufacturers, other supermarket chains such as the nation’s largest by market share, Kroger, and behemoths like Walmart, which is currently the biggest seller of groceries in the U.S. with more than one-quarter of the market, according to Euromonitor. It also potentially creates a challenge for companies that deliver groceries such as Fresh Direct and Peapod, and ready-to-cook ingredients and recipes to customers’ doors, like Blue Apron and Sun Basket.

“Once Amazon is a player in the industry, anything can go,” said Joe Agnese, senior food retailing analyst at CFRA. “The big threat is what else they can do. Now that they have a retail presence with (more than) 400 stores, long-term they can expand on that threat. They can (bring) pricing pressure. They could bring down prices and everyone would have to match them or lose share.”

The broader retail industry’s tailspin has only deepened with Amazon taking a big share of the blame. Once stalwarts of the industry, Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s are closing hundreds of stores. Mall favorites like The Limited and Gymboree have filed for bankruptcy protection. Now, traditional grocers could face a similar fate.

►A wave of merger and acquisition activity may on the way as companies seek scale. Amazon may, itself, be the acquirer. “I don’t think that this will be the last of Amazon’s purchases,” said Rafael Romero, vice president of Florida-based real estate firm CREC’s retail division.  “They fully recognize that brick and mortar and online retailing is all retailing and you need both.”

Other companies could look to buy expertise in crunching customer data — an area at which Amazon excels — and one that more shoppers, especially the Millennial generation, embraces. r

“I think it’s a great idea,” Trish Wichmann of New York said about Amazon’s reputation for speedy service while out shopping on Friday. “(Consumers are) used to texting. We’re used to instant gratification. That’s what we want. I think industries are trying to do that.”

Big food stores that haven’t been getting information on customers and crunching it are immediately behind. One of Amazon’s strengths is the way it captures purchase history and makes suggestions for new ones.

“Amazon is smart about mining data. They own data like Saudi Arabia has crude oil. Data is going to become only more (important) for those in grocery store business,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.

►The challenges will extend beyond grocery aisles. Food manufacturers and producers need to gear up for two key possibilities: Amazon nudging itself into shoppers’ carts with food of its own making. It already has its own brand of many items such as batteries and pet food and Whole Foods sells its 365 Everyday Value brand.

The other major threat: Amazon engaging in margin-busting negotiations.

“If Amazon is able to gain the kind of scale they want in this space, they’ll be very tough in commanding a price,” Hamrick said.

Mass retailers now selling groceries, like Walmart and Target, and traditional supermarkets will need to be more competitive to retain customers, especially if Amazon cuts Whole Foods’ high prices.

Walmart had long been the biggest threat to the supermarket industry. In the 1990’s the chain began adding full-line grocery sections to its stores in a bid to increase sales and push foot traffic to the more profitable clothing and general merchandise it sells and Target followed with its own grocery sections. Today, new entrants such as Germany’s Lidl are coming into the market and chains like Aldi (also from Germany) are adding and revamping stores by adding more organic and specialty merchandise such as gluten-free foods, at low prices, to attract shoppers, creating an hyper-competitive environment.

►Mainstream grocers will need to take a hard look at themselves. Kroger’s stock dropped Thursday after the company lowered its outlook for annual profit and tanked again after the Amazon-Whole Foods deal was announced. Kroger’s shares lost 28% for the week. Stocks of other food sellers tanked, too.

“We’re going to see polarization here. Some players, like Wegmans and Publix, are strongly differentiated. I don’t think they’ll lose because of that. The ones that are not so strong and differentiated are more likely to fall victim to the price squeeze and you’ll see the shake-out. Other chains will look to buy these chains to consolidate,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, pointing to Buy Low Market in California and Ingles in the South as chains that might struggle to survive.

In the near-term, at least, the big winner will probably be shoppers. Consumers can look forward to more than just extra cash in their wallets when they leave their local grocery stores. They might see completely overhauled stores — smaller footprints and larger assortments of exclusive brands, which is the successful German approach already invading the United States. Lidl opened its first U.S. stores on Thursday and Aldi is planning to add another 900 American stores and remodel the majority of its 1,300 existing ones. And Amazon’s tech heritage could completely refashion grocery stores from how they are laid out to what products are offered to how shoppers gather their purchases.

Longer-term it’s hard to say, but some people and consumer groups have already expressed concern about one company potentially having so much power.

“If you look at mergers in other industries, you already see what are the end results,” said Robert Ambrozy of New York.  “This will impact the end users and the price overall. They’re monopolizing the markets, so the rates will definitely go up.”

“Everyone’s game just needs to get tighter and that battle for the customer becomes all the more apparent,” said Jeff Roster, vice president of the research firm IHL.

“This is brand spanking new territory we’re smashing through here.”

Top Of Mind Topics From ICSC’s RECon 2017 Conference

Top Of Mind Topics From ICSC’s RECon 2017 Conference

May 30th, 2017
By Natalie Dolce

LAS VEGAS—CREC VP Rafael Romero tells GlobeSt.com about how chef-driven restaurants are driving heavy traffic to shopping centers and why regional malls will not go quietly into the night in this EXCLUSIVE article on the hottest retail topics from this year’s big event.


CREC Vice President Rafael Romero

LAS VEGAS—GlobeSt.com recently caught up with Rafael Romero, vice president of CREC, a leading independently-owned commercial real estate firm in Florida, to hear his top five takeaways from the 2017 ICSC RECon conference in Las Vegas.

Below are Romero’s notes the “hottest” retail topics that were top of mind this year for industry pros:

Chef-driven restaurants drive heavy traffic to shopping centers

“We are seeing a new wave of innovative restaurants driving critical mass and showing landlords/brokers that the chef really matters. The concept and value of chef-driven restaurants, often by notorious and prized culinary masters, are serving as a successful formula to significantly draw demand to lifestyle centers in need of a new retail ‘palate’ and steady foot traffic,” he says. “However, although your area’s hottest chef may be a culinary genius, that doesn’t always ensure financial success. It’s important to note that when digging into a restaurant deal, there are several economic and business fundamentals to consider.”

Regional malls will not go quietly into the night

Not all malls are created equal, says Romero. “Analysts continue to blame the internet as the driving factor contributing to the decline of malls but we are still seeing ‘Class-A’ assets thrive as a result of a premier selection of retail and restaurant tenants successfully targeting the affluent communities they serve. Conversely, ‘Class-B’ and ‘C’ malls are struggling to find customers and keep tenants, as anchor department stores such as Sears and Macy’s continue to shutter,” he says. At this year’s conference, GGP, Simon, Westfield and other major mall developers and operators showcased their tenacity to keep regional malls thriving, he explains. “The sentiment is that mall owners remain heavily active to generate exciting deals, while fostering new levels of creativity to backfill impending vacancies.”

The sky is not falling

Although the recent wave of big-box store troubles continues to make headlines and there has been a slew of recent retail closures, the fact that national vacancy is at approximately 5%, according to Romero, is a strong indication that we are still experiencing a healthy retail market. “While sector readjustments will naturally be made to combat big-box retail challenges and the age of online shopping, the sky is definitely not falling,” he says. “The future looks bright for the retail community.”

Discounters are growing and absorbing square footage

Within this changing retail landscape, fueled by the closure of iconic big-box retailers, the squeeze from the internet is not the only pressure felt in the industry, says Romero. “The off-price retail sector is actively thriving. Consumers are increasingly gravitating to discounters, such as T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Nordstrom Rack, that can offer many benefits not seen at department stores—discount prices, changing product mix and that thrill of hunting to find the perfect item. We cannot ‘discount’ these retailers from the conversation.”

Grocery stores will take a larger piece of the neighborhood center pie

“We are definitely seeing more demand from grocery store giants, with their desire to continue rapid expansion in centers across the country. With new big-name grocers coming to the market and other giants, such as Whole Foods and Fresh Market, further developing prepared foods and unique offerings, margins are anticipated to widen and heighten the threat to other neighboring, local supermarkets and restaurants. We will definitely see the supermarket and grocery store industry remain a hot topic, one that is closely watched in the coming quarter.”

CREC Tapped by Thor Equities to Reposition & Draw High-Street Retail to Prime Fort Lauderdale Beach Shopping Destination

CREC Tapped by Thor Equities to Reposition & Draw High-Street Retail
to Prime Fort Lauderdale Beach Shopping Destination

Florida’s leading commercial real estate firm to transform The Gallery at Beach Place
into a live-work-play lifestyle center following major renovations.

CREC – Florida’s leading, independent, full-service commercial real estate firm – announced today that it has been selected by Thor Equities as the exclusive leasing agent for The Gallery at Beach Place in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida. Bringing extensive expertise in high-street retail, CREC together with Thor Equities will reposition the property’s tenant mix, revitalizing this Fort Lauderdale Beach landmark.

A major $1.9 million renovation by Thor Equities, including a fresh façade and modernization of finishes throughout, is currently underway to appeal to shifting demographics and increased demand for tailored, experiential retail in the Fort Lauderdale market.

“We are excited to collaborate with Thor Equities to reposition this trophy asset and bring it to full occupancy,” said CREC Vice President Rafael Romero. “The 360-degree renovation of The Gallery at Beach Place encompasses not only the aesthetics of the property, but our team’s commitment to re-imagine this property as a 21st century lifestyle center anchored by an inspired collection of eateries, offices, health and fitness centers, and entertainment retailers.”

With this appointment, CREC continues its track record of reshaping the retail blueprint of lifestyle shopping destinations in Florida. Most recently, the firm created and executed a vision for a revitalized tenant mix at Downtown Dadeland. Prior to CREC’s involvement in 2014, Downtown Dadeland struggled to attract retail occupants that boosted foot traffic. CREC has since positioned Downtown Dadeland as Miami’s premier location for chef-driven restaurants, situated in a pedestrian-friendly, open-air environment. The restaurant lineup includes four James Beard Award winners and nominees including Pubbelly Sushi, Harry’s Pizzeria, The Brick and Zuuk.

The Gallery at Beach Place is situated at 17 South Fort Lauderdale Boulevard, just steps from the sand, and directly on the main thoroughfare of Fort Lauderdale Beach’s State Road AIA. The property’s prime location affords breathtaking ocean views and heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic from neighboring hotel brands, including Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels and Westin. Tourist attractions such as The Fort Lauderdale Air Show and Tortuga Music Festival add seasonal boosts of foot traffic. The area attracts over 13 million annual visitors, spending more than $10.6 billion each year.

Comprised of 95,769 square feet of mixed-use space amid three floors, The Gallery at Beach Place is currently 70 percent occupied, with 32,618 square feet of rentable space available. Thor Equities’ significant investment in infrastructure will transform the property to provide a platform for CREC to attract high-quality tenants to Fort Lauderdale Beach’s newest live-work-play lifestyle center.

CREC Vice President Rafael Romero and Senior Leasing Associate Ariel Bernstein will oversee leasing and marketing The Gallery at Beach Place. Current anchor tenants include CVS, Escapology, Hooters, Lulu’s Bait Shack, and Maui Nix.

 

CREC Tapped To Exclusively Lease 43,000 SF Of Retail Space For Luxury Mixed-Use Development In Downtown Miami

May 16th, 2017

CREC has been appointed the exclusive leasing agent for 43,301 square feet of prime retail space of the luxury mixed-used development Vizcayne, located at 200 Biscayne Boulevard, in the heart of downtown Miami.

Vizcayne is situated within walking to distance to the American Airlines Arena, in a dense urban area with a strong population of businesses and growing residential base. Comprised of 849 condominium units in two residential towers, the development’s retail space provides everyday conveniences and services that appeal to the surrounding demographic.

Current ground-floor tenants include Orangetheory Fitness, CVS, Smoothie King, Zona Fresca, and The Learning Experience, with available retail space between 2,875 and 13,047 square feet. Additionally, Vizcayne offers a 126-space parking deck and abundant street parking along Biscayne Boulevard and adjacent side streets.

CREC Vice President Rafael Romero, CCIM and Senior Leasing Associate Ariel Bernstein will oversee leasing and marketing of the project.

“Vizcayne’s retail component provides a unique opportunity to attract lifestyle tenants that complement the neighborhood’s thriving residential base, as well as the bustling business community,” said Romero. “We are carefully selecting a retail mix that heightens the amenities of the luxury mixed-use development, while remaining conscious of drawing retailers that deliver a sense of ease to those who regularly frequent the area.”

Strategically located on Biscayne Boulevard, Vizcayne is across from Bayside Marketplace and Bayfront Park. Developed by Cabi Developers, the projected was designed by Fullerton-Diaz Architects, Inc. and completed in 2008.

“We are excited to add another luxury mixed-use project to our portfolio, and look forward to curating a lifestyle retail mix that brings great value to Vizcayne and Downtown Miami’s thriving pedestrian market,” added CREC President and Co-Founder Carol Greenberg Brooks.

Long slog of Miracle Mile revamp alters business scene

WEEK OF THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2017

A Singular Voice in an Evolving City.


COMMERCIAL & OFFICE SPACE


Long slog of Miracle Mile revamp alters business scene

By Catherine Lackner

The renovation of Miracle Mile and Gerald Avenue has been a long slog and, with completion set for January, it’s far from over. Stakeholders on the streets have experienced the construction differently.

“We’ve been very fortunate, but we are sensitive to the fact that others have had serious difficulties,” said Barbara Stein, executive producing director of the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile.

“We’ve become somewhat of a destination, and people seem to be able to get to the theater on time,” she said. “People have a choice to see or not see the show, and we’ve had some good series.”

Parking is a challenge, she said, “but parking is always a challenge, and not just in Coral Gables, but everywhere. We’re hoping the return of valet service will help.”

On balance, Ms. Stein called the renovation “a little bit of pain for some gain.

“These are going to be amazing improvements, and we hope that the people we bring in will help generate opportunities for everyone,” she said. “We’re all working together for the prosperity of the community.”

An unintended consequence of the renovation forced Flowers & Services, formerly of 366 Miracle Mile, to leave the city.

“Due to the construction, the owner of our former location raised the rent from $4,000 to $11,000,” said Maria Budow, co-owner of the business. “We moved. Once the renovation is done, a restaurant can come in there and put tables on the sidewalks, which we couldn’t do.”

Flowers & Services moved to 6600 Coral Way. “It’s really nice and there’s plenty of parking,” Ms. Budow said. “We’re happy.”

Rent increases may be part of a trend, said Rafael Romero, Vice President of CREC, via email.

“While some retailers may not survive these challenging times, the long-term gains will deliver enhanced tenants and increased market vitality. With less than a 3% retail vacancy rate in Miami today, any vacancies will be absorbed quickly in this area.

“We expect landlords of existing retail buildings to upgrade infrastructure to meet the vision of the new streetscape, playing a significant role in the new retail aesthetic,” said Mr. Romero, whose office at 2121 Ponce de Leon Blvd. is two blocks from Giralda Avenue and four blocks from Miracle Mile. “Coral Gables will also need to work closely with the surrounding landlords to deliver a destination with a synergetic tenant mix.”

“This is a defining moment for downtown Coral Gables,” said Christopher Brown, co-developer of Giralda Place, a nine-story, 33-unit condominium project at 2222 Ponce de Leon Blvd., which will have 13,390 square feet of ground-floor retail and about 100,000 square feet of office space.

“We’re already seeing growing interest in Giralda Place due to the streetscape project taking shape across the street. While tenants have seen a dry sales period, there is real buzz surrounding the streetscape’s completion and resulting increase in foot traffic,” he said via email.

“The improvements will greatly benefit current retail tenants by helping to boost lost revenue from the heavy construction and providing them with a competitive advantage, as there are no other thoroughfares in the vicinity that share the same attributes.”

“We invite people to come experience the progress of the Miracle Mile streetscape as you stroll the south side of the 100 and 200 blocks of Miracle Mile [which house] the Miracle Theatre, Barnes & Noble and dozens of quality shops and eateries,” said Javier Betancourt, Coral Gables economic development director, via email.

“Hand-cut stone pavers – inspired by our beautiful South Florida skies – are being meticulously installed on ultra-wide sidewalks to create a captivating pedestrian experience for locals and visitors alike,” he said. “The first phase of this multimillion-dollar renaissance has successfully addressed long-standing drainage issues while installing high speed fiber, new shade trees, and specialty lighting. The drainage work is done and the magic is now taking shape.”

The first phase of the Giralda Plaza streetscape is taking shape, as well, he said. “To celebrate,

‘Parking is always a challenge, and not just in Coral Gables, but everywhere. We’re hoping the return of the valet service will help.’

Barbara Stein


‘While some retailers may not survive these challenging time, the long-term gains will deliver enhanced tenants and increased market vitality.’

Rafael Romero


many of the restaurants along ‘restaurant row,’ (the 100 block of Giralda Avenue) will operate impromptu outdoor cafes in the plaza each Saturday from breakfast to midnight.

“Entitled Giralda Alfresco, these Saturday experiences will allow us to get a taste of what’s to come, because it’s just too pretty now to wait until summer, when it’s officially complete,” Mr. Betancourt said.

The project – which was discussed for years before the first inch of pavement was broken – will create streets that are more walkable, vibrant and attractive, he said. Giralda Plaza is scheduled for completion by early summer, and seven of Miracle Mile’s eight blocks are scheduled for completion by November of this year (in time for the holiday season), with the last block slated for completion by January 2018.

“The city is sensitive to the hardships faced by merchants during this period of construction,” he said. Coral Gables has taken steps to support the merchants, including:

‘While tenants have seen a dry sales period, there is a real buzz surrounding the streetscape’s completion and resulting increase in foot traffic.’

Christopher Brown


‘The first phase of this multimillion-dollar renaissance has successfully addressed long-standing drainage issues while installing high speed fiber.’

Javier Betancourt


  • Working with the contractor to accelerate and expedite the work.
  • Attracting people to downtown through a variety of free events, such as Wellness Wednesdays, Jazz in the Gables, Movies on the Mile and Giralda Al Fresco.
  • Providing discounted or complementary parking for customers, including free parking vouchers and free valet vouchers for Giralda Avenue merchants.
  • Conducting a robust marketing and advertising campaign in publications and social media.
  • Installing more than 180 business continuity parking and wayfinding signs.
  • Waiving city permit fees and expediting permitting for facade improvements.
  • Providing flexibility with respect to certain code enforcement regulations.
  • Enhancing privately owned paseos at the city’s expense.
  • Providing rent abatement for retail tenants in city-owned properties.
In Focus – High Stakes in South Florida
Women’s Wear Daily | In Focus
Miami is riding an unprecedented roller coaster.The city rebounded from the recession only to
be hit by economic downturns in Brazil and Russia, major sources of tourism and second-home
owners for the region. Rising sea levels threaten to engulf it within the next century — if not soon-
er — but that didn’t stop a hedge-fund manager from buying two units at Faena House in Miami
Beach for a record $60 million. The Panama Papers’ leaked shell companies and offshore bank
accounts have led to cash purchases of condominiums in gleaming new residential towers,
which seem to multiply here like cells in a Petridish. Retail is also on fire in “Mall-ami,” while
commercial property sales are breaking records.

 

“The market clearly reflects consumer demand for high-quality retail experiences,” said
Michael Comras, president of a namesake commercial real estate firm in Miami Beach. Comras’
entire block on the north side of Lincoln Road, 78,000 square feet in total that he owned with
Jonathan Fryd of Fryd Properties, sold for $370 million last year. “It was the largest retail trans-
action and the second-largest of any real estate deal in Miami-Dade County history,” he boasted.
Talk to any developer or leasing broker and it’s the same story about how the city was under-
served for too long. Drew Schaul, executive vice president of RKF, a New York-based retail real
estate firm with offices in Miami, said there were 11 square feet of retail per capita when he moved
to the city in 2005, compared with a national average of 22 square feet. When LVMH Moët Hen-
nessy Louis Vuitton yanked its store portfolio from Bal Harbour Shops about four years ago
and moved it to Aventura Mall and the Miami Design District, it set a trend for brands to consider
emerging neighborhoods and evolving centers.

 

Northern states have watched populations trickle down to Florida for a while, but the city’s
retail offerings really began booming at the turn of the Millennium, helped by the arrival of Art Basel
Miami Beach and the construction of luxury residential high rises and hotels designed by star archi-
tects. Their collective impact lured high-net-worth individuals, and brands streamed in soon after.
“Miami was just a place for fun in the sun before Art Basel gave it global substance,” said Craig
Robins, chief executive officer and president of Dacra, the Miami-based real estate development firm
with a large stake in the Miami Design District. “It’s much younger, too. There were four hospitals in
Miami Beach when I grew up and now there’s one. It’s gone from 80-year-olds to 35-year-olds.”
According to the City of Miami Beach Tourism Culture and Economic Development, the city’s
median age fell from 65 in 1980 to 40 in 2014. In 1980, 49,000 people of a total population of
96,000 were over 65. In 2014, seniors made up 15,000 of 91,000.

 

Residential rent is also high in Miami. According to Zillow, the national average rent will be
$1,407 by February 2017, while the average rent in Miami will be $1,899, a 3.3 percent forecasted
increase from February 2016. It also ranks Miami metro third in percentage of income going to-
ward rent, after Los Angeles and San Francisco. New York is fourth, according to Zillow data from
the fourth quarter of 2015.
Younger generations, struggling with high rent, are influencing the city’s transition — from
a car culture to taking public transportation, walking and biking. As population and traffic
increases, distinct neighborhoods — Coconut Grove, Wynwood, the Art Deco District — are
tightening into all-inclusive, hyperlocal hubs in which to live, work and play. Some are already
fully served, while others fill in missing components, like retail in downtown and Brickell, or
residential and hospitality in Wynwood. Big-box chains are creating controversy as they creep into
former bohemian districts to service residential growth. Michaels and Marshalls plan to open in
South Beach, and Wal-Mart’s forthcoming store in Midtown Miami borders Wynwood.
“Developers and consumers are placing their bets on the full lifestyle package. People don’t
want to spend their entire lives in the car,” said Rafael Romero, an associate vice president for
retail at CREC real estate firm in Coral Gables. “They’re also staying single longer and having
kids later, so they can live in urban areas with disposable income to blow.”

 

The hottest markets — from Brickell to Sunset Harbour — target young professionals by hitting
the fashion, fitness and food trifecta. Chef-driven restaurants, which got a late start in Miami and
now open on a weekly basis, have paved the way for gentrification and the rampant rise of street
retail as opposed to the city’s historic preference for air-conditioned and covered, open-air malls.
“More than revitalization, the next decade is about connectivity as all these areas gel and roll
into one another,” said Comras of the effort to convince residents to leave the car at home or get
rid of it altogether. “These pedestrian pockets are even happening in suburban areas like Doral.”
With strong ties to Latin America, Miami retail is adjusting to different circumstances than
the rest of the U.S. Malls report tourism and second-home owners drive 70 percent of sales in the
area and people, no matter where they’re from, splurge on vacation.
The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau reported record-breaking travel and tourism
numbers last year with a 5.4 percent increase in overnight visitors to Miami and the Beaches
during the 12 months from September 2014 to August 2015 — 15.1 million overnight visitors, up from
14.2 million for the same period the previous year. This boosted the economic impact to $25.1 billion
from $23.5 billion, a 7 percent increase.

 

Retailers aren’t as affected by online shopping either; whether because of cultural preferences or
lack of Internet access, international tourists and part-time residents prefer brick-and-mortar stores.
A typical scenario is a family of four from Quito, Ecuador, flying in to buy back-to-school wardrobes.
Having seen its middle class shrink long before the rest of America, Miami’s economy mir-
rors those of Southern Hemisphere nations more closely than it does neighboring states.
“Miami functions more like a third-world society with extreme wealth versus poverty,” said
Schaul, “so you’re seeing an abundance of new luxury and discount or fast-fashion retail.”
Here is a snapshot of some local projects and neighborhood developments. ■

 

South Florida Region Experiencing Retail Resurgence

When it was Miami Beach vs. Coconut Grove, the Miami enclave lost.

Shoppers and tourists fled the historic neighborhood for the revitalized South Beach retail strips minutes from the ocean.

Years ago, this was the norm in South Florida: When one area got hot, it kicked others off the map.

“The Grove was the hottest thing until South Beach came along,” said Michael Comras, president and CEO of the Comras Co. of Florida Inc.

Then Coral Gables grabbed the attention of shoppers, and together the cities “sucked the life out of the Grove,” the commercial real estate broker and investor said.

Back then, retailers were competing for the same slice of the pie, but that’s no longer the case.

“The pie has gotten bigger,” Comras said.

Miami’s international allure and steady job growth has fueled population growth. South Florida surpassed the 6 million mark this year, making it the eighth most populous region in the nation.

With it comes a resurgence in the region’s retail sector.

An estimated 1.4 million square feet of retail is now planned or under construction in downtown Miami, mostly in big-name projects like the nearly completed Brickell City Centre, Miami Worldcenter and Met Square. Forty percent of all countywide construction activity is taking place in the city’s urban core.

As Gunster real estate attorney Brian Belt puts it, “The retail goes where the population goes.”

Amid the influx of new housing, developers are challenged to create unique concepts that attract different segments of the population, Comras said.

Foot Traffic

Craig Robins has successfully carved a niche in Miami’s retail arena, catering to design enthusiasts and the city’s most sophisticated shoppers.

Two decades ago the Miami-based developer began sweeping up property in a desolate area northeast of Interstate 195 and Biscayne Boulevard when conventional wisdom said what happened in booming South Beach could never cross the bridge.

Robins, president and CEO of Dacra, is now developing about 70 percent of the once-sleepy neighborhood known as Miami’s Design District. Dilapidated buildings have been transformed into top-shelf storefronts carrying luxe brands ranging from Christian Louboutin to Valentino.

Dacra is working on its second phase to duplicate the open-air, two-story shopping plaza on Northwest 39th Street.

“What the retail did for us is it validated the neighborhood as a blue-chip location,” Robins said.

Last month, 85,000 Pay by Phone parking transactions were counted in the nearby Wynwood district, a neighborhood commonly likened to New York’s Brooklyn borough and referred to as Miami’s Arts District.

Warehouses hint at the neighborhood’s industrial base, but their new users paint a colorful picture of an emerging community shaped by retailers.

Foot traffic has been going up steadily, said Tony Cho, CEO and founder of Metro 1, a commercial and residential brokerage company routinely inking deals in the Wynwood area. The buzz is luring well-known brands in addition to homegrown ventures like Panther Coffee.

“Retail particularly follows residential booms,” Cho said.

More than 7,000 condominium units are under construction, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Over 3,000 are coming to the Edgewater and Midtown areas, which sit next to the Design District and Wynwood.

Investor Appetite

Art galleries, entertainment venues and trendy stores are increasingly occupying Wynwood’s boxy buildings, which have traded for price tags that reach $1,000 per square foot.

New York developer Moishe Mana has big plans for the 30 acres of the neighborhood he owns: Mana and his team are ironing out details in his proposed master plan, which would bring retail, office, hotel, a museum and beauty school to the district.

“The majority of buyers who understand and get Wynwood are New Yorkers because they saw what happened in the Lower East Side” and other once-neglected areas of New York City, Cho said. “They saw [it] then. The creative class came into the neighborhood and transformed it.”

Metro 1 closed $65 million worth of sales in the neighborhood during March alone. Headline-worthy deals included a 1941-built warehouse that sold for $22 million, or 633 percent more than just 17 months before.

Earlier this year, New York-based Thor Equities, which began amassing a hefty portfolio of Design District property at record prices in 2014, sold most of it to another group for $128 million. RedSky Capital, a Brooklyn-based real estate company also active in the Miami area, picked up seven parcels with plans to redevelop.

Sources close to the deal said the area’s dollar figures hit a point where Thor opted for quick profit rather than redevelopment.

The retail craze has spilled beyond Miami’s urban core.

Miami Beach’s commercial sector continues to draw deep-pocketed investors. Two months ago, a retail property on the city’s tourist-laden Lincoln Road shopping strip sold for more than $6,500 per square foot.

Last year, the resort city became home to the second largest real estate deal in Miami-Dade County history when Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega paid $370 million for an entire Lincoln Road block.

Miami’s Coconut Grove is finally catching up.

Federal Realty, a Rockville, Maryland-based company that focuses on buying and redeveloping underperforming property, partnered with local developers Grass River Property and the Comras Co. last year to enter the Miami market.

The trio dropped millions on two neglected shopping centers: The $87.5 million acquisition of CocoWalk, a sleepy open-air retail center in the heart of Coconut Grove, and the $110 million purchase of the Shops at Sunset Place, an underutilized mall in South Miami.

Farther Afield

Investor appetite is fueling a resurgence of neighborhoods beyond the bustling urban core.

“We see a lot of demand, a population that’s not being served,” Federal Realty CEO Don Wood told the Daily Business Review in February. “If the hunch is right, we’ll spend another $200 million or more to invest in producing and creating a product that’s right for the community that it serves.”

Comras said plans for CocoWalk would be announced within the next 60 to 90 days, then plans for Sunset Place will appear shortly after.

“Obviously, we’re very bullish on Coconut Grove,” he said. “You have an amazing residential market, a great office market, a great hotel market and now it’s a matter of bringing back the retail.”

Plans will focus on creating an outdoor environment that will give shoppers a reason to step away from the computer and off the couch.

In another blockbuster deal, West Palm Beach’s Palm Beach Outlets, which replaced a fallen mall, sold for $278 million in 2015 for the second largest real estate deal in Palm Beach County history. Retail sale were up by triple-digit percentages compared to the year before, said Belt, a Miami-based shareholder at Gunster.

“It’s doing well because it has really good employment growth and income growth,” he said.

Meanwhile, shopping malls across South Florida are looking to carve out something beyond online sales, launching ambitious expansion projects to revamp their centers.

Sunrise’s Sawgrass Mills is adding a new wing, and the master-planned Metropica community is under construction next to it. Aventura Mall landed a loan early this year to kick off its expansion. Whitman Family Development’s $400 million expansion of its Bal Harbour Shops pushed forward with the $30 million purchase of an adjacent church property in February.

Then there’s the American Dream Mall slated for northwest Miami-Dade. If plans come to fruition, the mall would be the largest in the nation.

The enclosed mall versus open-air retail trend was further validated when one of Miami’s largest developments, the $2 billion Miami Worldcenter, ditched plans for a department store-anchored mall for a more airy environment. The initial 760,000-square-foot shopping center was replaced by one- and two-story storefronts on three blocks. The project broke ground in March.

Existing outdoor retail strips are also undergoing renovations.

Miami Beach recently approved a master plan for Lincoln Road, and Coral Gables’ Miracle Mile is due for a makeover.

Flagler Street

But Belt warns, “There are obvious exceptions to the rosy picture.”

While Miami’s overall vacancy rates have dipped below 4 percent, empty storefronts lining downtown’s Flagler Street tell a different story.

“In downtown Miami, some of the smaller shops that cater to the lower or lower middle-class market and foreign buyers … are not doing well at all,” Belt said.

Mana, the New York developer who owns swaths of land in Wynwood, has pocketed a number of buildings on Flagler.

He promises to make downtown young again. The developer is working with University of Miami students to design micro-apartments catering to recent college graduates and millennials working in the area.

Existing tenants dominated by electronics, luggage, perfume and apparel shops are a byproduct of segmented ownership, said Rafael Romero, associate vice president at Continental Real Estate Cos. But now business owners and government officials are pushing for the modernization of Flagler Street, forming the Flagler Street Task Force Committee to track a $13 million renovation.

For now, the downtown market is more attainable than pricey Brickell a few blocks away, “especially for a restaurateur that may have the best idea in the world but may not have the deepest pockets,” Romero said.

“Downtown and specifically that Flagler corridor and parts of that Biscayne corridor … are where we’re likely to see the greatest growth over the next cycle.”

Brickell Retail at Premium, with Rents Doubling in a Year

3.9.16-Miami-Today-Brickell-retail-at-premiumWith the opening this fall of Brickell City Centre’s luxury open-air mall and a flood of new residents expected, Brickell has emerged as a sought-after retail spot. …

…  “It’s true that retail follows rooftops,” said Rafael Romero, associate vice president of CREC, “but ‘rooftops’ is just another way of saying ‘people,’ and the rooftops-the people-are here.” One of Brickell’s key advantages is public transit…

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