Aventura Mall in Miami is already a powerhouse with nearly three million square feet of gross leasable space and more than 300 stores. A new three-level, 315,000-square-foot wing that is set open in November is a simple case of the strong getting stronger in a market that continues to absorb new retail properties, such as Brickell City Centre.
“There will be a lot of restaurants in the new wing and a Treats Food Hall,” said Jackie Soffer, co-chairman and chief executive officer of Turnberry Associates, Aventura Mall’s owner. “There will also be a food hall. We leased the space to various operators. You get a lot more personality if you lease it yourself to strong operators.”
In addition, Todd English will launch an Italian restaurant and Zoo Kitchen will provide Mediterranean cuisine, along with CVI.CHE 105, Serafina, Pubbelly Sushi, Harry’s Pizzeria and Blue Bottle Coffee, among others.
“We’re fortunate because there’s demand in this market for good food,” Soffer said. “Our vision is to create a new gathering place.
“The mall has been changing over the past five years from mainstream to a little bit more luxury,” Soffer said. “That’s still happening. Pomellato is opening in the expansion. Gucci opened in December. The mall has also added Givenchy and a Chanel fragrance and beauty shop.”
Initially, Seritage Growth Properties, which owned a substantial amount of Sears real estate and in which Edward Lampert is an investor, in January 2016 tried to block the expansion, calling it a “land grab.” Seritage owned 13 acres at Aventura Mall, including a store that it leased back to Sears.
In November, the real estate investment trust settled a lawsuit to stop Aventura’s expansion plans, which were already under way.
Soffer brushed off the litigation, saying, “we settled that. Construction started a year ago January.”
Aventura’s addition was designed by architect Carlos Zapata with an 84-by-50-foot glass wall at the entrance offering views of the landscaping, and a continuous 350-foot skylight that runs the length of the wing, providing natural lighting and views of the rooftop terrace.
Soffer conceded that there are “a lot more stores on the market now. We opened stores for a lot of jewelry and watch brands and the Design District has done the same. It’s more options for consumers.”
In a city with 2.7 million residents and 16 million annual tourists, that may be true. “Miami has evolved,” Soffer said. “It’s a city where people want to spend more time. With Art Basel, now you can come to Miami and stay for a while.
“As far as our sales, the drop in Russian consumers has definitely hit us, but they’ve been replaced by a lot of U.S. tourists,” Soffer said. “We’re still getting a lot of South American tourists. We’re under construction and our sales aren’t down.”
Aventura has its own art collection and commissioned works for the new wing, including “Aventura Slide Tower” positioned at the soaring, cantilevered porte cochère. The nearly 93-foot tubular piece by Carsten Höller can be enjoyed from a distance or close up by sliding down the sculpture, an experience the artist compared to “an emotional state…somewhere between delight and madness.”
In the piazza, “Gorillas in the Mist” by the Haas Brothers consists of three large-scale bronze monkeys and four massive bronze trees. The piece will functionally circulate water, creating a space that is peaceful, evocative and amusing for families.
“I have to deal in the high level art world,” said Soffer, who is married to Craig Robbins, who spearheaded development of the Miami Design District and is the principal owner of Miami Design District Associates, a partnership between Robbins’ company Dacra and L Real Estate. “The artists are very respected. I know the work also has to be visually enticing and entertaining to people who don’t know a lot about art.”
Soffer said an Ugo Rondinone sculpture will move to the expansion. Elsewhere in the mall there are sculptures by Louise Bourgeois and Tom Otterness and pieces by Gary Hume, Julian Opie’s digitized images and Lawrence Weiner’s conceptual work.
“We have art through the center and it’s all permanent,” Soffer said. “We have Jaume Plensa’s sculpture and a children’s playground by the collective knows as Friends With You.”