By  on November 26, 2007

MIAMI — For years, the financial district here kept banker's hours and the area had little to offer in the way of shopping and dining.

Now, however, there's finally an option.

Mary Brickell Village, a new 195,000-square-foot lifestyle center, offers residents of the condominium towers along Biscayne Bay and guests at luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental and Conrad a selection of restaurants, stores and entertainment.

The financial district, which consists of Brickell Avenue and the portion of U.S. Route 1 running south of the Miami River to Rickenbacker Causeway, has more than 130,000 office workers in a two-mile radius. There are in excess of 155,000 primary residents and 9,000 hotel rooms with an almost 80 percent occupancy rate. The demographics were promising enough to interest developers such as the real estate firm Constructa, which began the project seven years ago.

Mary Brickell Village dragged because of finances, a lack of manpower as a result of Miami's building boom and hurricane season flooding. Canada's Ivanhoe Cambridge, a mall developer, purchased the open-air center with lush foliage and fountains three years ago.

"This area has welcomed us with open arms," said Marcos Freire, general manager of the center, which is named after a Miami pioneer who opened a trading post here in 1870 and became an early developer. "Places like Rosa Mexicano are already performing phenomenally, so we predict extremely strong annual sales of $1,000 per square foot for restaurants and $700 for retail once everything is up and running this holiday season."

A grocery store and high-end gym anchor Brickell's first-story collection of independent boutiques and specialty chains. Beauty salons, other services and fast-food eateries are on the second floor.

"We're going for a mature crowd, so we didn't want a cinema or food court," Freire said, adding that national tenants other than restaurants were never a focus. Retail spaces average 900 square feet. "The goal is to create an interesting shopping experience through more exclusive retailers and brands from Europe, Latin America and South Florida."

The strategy presented a rare Miami opportunity for this type of retailer, including Studio LX, a local men's and women's contemporary specialty chain, as well as its young contemporary spin-off, Blush. Joanna Paige, an offshoot of men's shoe store Cavanaugh in South Miami, sells women's shoes and handbags from Marc by Marc Jacobs, Coach and Tory Burch, priced from $100 to $1,000. Angie Chemla, a buyer for the privately-owned Florida retail division of French women's wear label Vertigo, in December will open Between Us, a contemporary boutique with foreign labels such as Patrizia Pepe and Animale that retail for $200 to $600.

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