By  on April 16, 2007

Construction cranes can seem almost as numerous as seagulls in Miami, where undeveloped land isn't likely to stay that way for long.

And Watson Island, a man-made sliver of land in Biscayne Bay that is connected to South Beach and downtown Miami by a causeway, is slated for an upscale, mixed-use development called Island Gardens that will feature 70 shops and 220,000 square feet of retail. The project, which the city awarded to Flagstone Property Group, of Miami, also will feature a Shangri-La Hotel, a Westin Hotel, waterfront dining and a harbor to accommodate super-yachts 100 feet or longer.

Island Gardens is intended to appeal to a modern, jet-setter crowd, said Mehmet Bayraktar, Flagstone's founder. He described the project as "an urban resort setting with chic luxury retail. You'll be able to drive your car up to the stores, but the street will be narrow enough for consumers to connect with the shops. It will be like St. Barth's, where you go from one shop to the shop across the street."

Valet parking is a must because residents like to "see and be seen," Bayraktar said.

Miami is one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. By 2030, downtown Miami will have 70,000 new residents, according to the Miami Downtown Destination Authority. The city now gets more than 10 million overnight visitors a year.

As for Watson Island, 90,000 cars pass the development site each day. The average household income in the trade district was $71,475 in 2006, and Flagstone estimated the area has $5 billion in purchasing potential.

Flagstone has begun talking to retailers and Bayraktar said he was not looking to add more chain stores to the Miami market.

"What's happened in Miami is that regardless of demographics and income level, people, especially Gen X and Gen Y consumers, want certain products,'' he said. "With the proximity to South Beach, everything is highly styled and contemporary and trendy."

Flagstone is looking for retailers that will be unique to Miami.

"Parts of SoHo [in Manhattan] have some boutiques we're interested in," he said. "We want stores that are similar to Fred Segal in Los Angeles or Colette in Paris or Chocolat from Rio de Janeiro and São Paolo. We don't necessarily want a big-name luxury brand such as Louis Vuitton or Chanel. You can almost find them anywhere in the world. You bump into them in airports."The largest stores will have 30,000 to 50,000 square feet of space. Bayraktar said he was thinking of Louis of Boston, Dallas' Stanley Korshak or Barneys New York.

Given Island Gardens' proximity to South Beach, the target customer is about "10 to 15 years younger than Bal Harbour Shops' customer," Bayraktar said, referring to the high- end shopping center there.

The yacht harbor is intended to be a big draw for the monied set. "We will have the biggest number of yachts in the world, even more than Monaco," Bayraktar predicted. "When mega-yacht owners are on vacation, they're ready to spend a lot on food and boutiques."

Bayraktar said there were 7,000 mega-yachts in the world. About 85 percent are chartered at a cost of $50,000 to $1 million a week, he added.

The hotel fractional residences won't come cheap, either. Island Gardens is selling one-eighth fractions, or 45 days per year, for $200,000 to $800,000.

A difference in the retail component — there will be more ready-to-wear in the mix. "We're not planning to have housewares or furniture," Bayraktar said. "We'll have more jewelry and accessories."

Of the eight to 10 restaurants, one or two will be pricey, Bayraktar said. There will also be restaurants in the hotels.

If all goes according to plan, the marina, retail and parking facility will open by fall 2009. The hotel towers should be completed by 2010.

"We made an agreement with Fairchild Tropical Gardens to help us with the selection of our plants," Bayraktar said. The developer is giving a space to the Historical Museum of South Florida for a gallery.

Eric Kuhn, who designed the Bluewater Shopping Center outside London, is working on the project. "He does retail-centered mixed use that increases the frequency of visits. People also tend to stay longer."

Bayraktar is especially excited about one aspect of the project, a small fish market, which will capture the essence of the site.

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