By  on October 16, 2007

Refurbished shopping areas sprout in three neighborhoods.

MIAMI — Residential real estate has slowed here, but several refurbished commercial centers are serving new high-rises and gentrified neighborhoods. Here are three areas, once noted for a hodgepodge of random and seedy businesses, where much of the action is taking place.

Biscayne Boulevard

After three years of dust and traffic jams, the Florida Department of Transportation's $60 million makeover of Biscayne Boulevard is nearing completion, said Robert Flanders, co-founder of the Upper Eastside Miami Council, a homeowners' association founded in the late Nineties to improve and economically revitalize the street. As palm-lined medians, historic lighting and wide sidewalks with shade trees and cafe seating have been installed, upscale boutiques and restaurants, many based in Miami Beach, have replaced liquor stores and motels that attracted drugs and prostitution.

"Using South Beach's evolution as our blueprint, we knew some businesses would be dislocated, but those didn't appeal to our 18,000 residents, especially young families that have followed the gay population's gentrification efforts," said Flanders, adding new zoning bans health clinics, used clothing shops and building heights exceeding nine stories.

Andrea Singer-Love, who remembers prostitutes wandering into Rebel, her 4,000-square-foot contemporary women's store with brands such as Sheri Bodell, Black Halo and J Brand, when she opened in 2002, said sales dipped 15 percent during road construction. She remains optimistic with fall's return of local celebrity regulars, as well as new clients from Miami Beach who have tired of Lincoln Road's crowds and parking fees, or from nearby Blue Condominiums.

"I've always been a destination store, but now I'm getting foot traffic from people who live in $800,000 homes, out walking their dogs or eating at Michy's [a trendy restaurant]," she said.

Julian Chang, who has operated a showroom for an eponymous women's and men's clothing collection, and a contemporary, multilabel boutique next door to Rebel since 2006, survived summer's 30 percent sales decrease by arranging trunk shows and private appointments off-premises. With rent increases of 7 to 10 percent annually, he is looking to make up the difference in sales during high season.

"I'm lucky to have a fair landlord, who's painting the building when construction ends, and to be part of a tight-knit group that informs business owners, unlike Miami Beach where I had a store," said Chang, who also doesn't feel threatened by fashion newcomers like Oyuki and The Transit Shop. "There are enough clothing lines to go around for even more competition."

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