Of the four retail projects proposed for Miami in the mid-Aughts, only one has advanced to completion: Brickell City Centre, a 500,000-square-foot shopping center, opens today after four years of construction.
Brickell City Centre’s mall is part of a $1.05 billion mixed-use project in the Brickell business and banking district.
A 107,550-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue — the retailer’s first new unit to open in the city in 30 years — is the main focal point. “We talked to all the department stores,” said Stephen Owens, president of Swire Properties, which partnered with Whitman Family Development and Simon Property Group to develop Brickell. “We were only interested in having one [anchor], so having the right one became extremely important. Saks sets the standard for us. Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s didn’t have that.”
Only a portion of the 100-plus retailers that signed leases are ready to unveil their stores. Construction on specialty stores was delayed by Hurricane Matthew last month. While Miami was spared the storm’s worst wrath, Matthew nonetheless impacted the region.
“It was a little blip for some of the tenants,” admitted Debora Overholt, vice president of retail at Swire Properties, “It took a while to get mobilized after that. There will be phased openings between now and Nov. 17.”
Swire sees Brickell City Centre filling a void in Miami’s retail landscape. The city doesn’t lack for shopping districts with Lincoln Road, Wynwood and the Miami Design District within city limits. Dadeland Mall, Bal Harbour Shops, Dolphin Mall and Aventura Mall are within 10 miles and 17 miles of downtown.
“Brickell has been understored for quite some time,” Owens said. “We’re in the heart of the urban area. There are 100,000 residents. No new retail has been added for 30 or 40 years.”
There’s been significant development of condominiums and rental apartments, including two condo towers at Brickell City Centre with 400 units each.
Customer traffic is also expected to come from East, Brickell’s flagship hotel, and there are 100,000 office workers housed in two towers that are part of the project. The Miami Metromover has been integrated into the retail center with a stop that exits directly onto the third floor of the center.
“The Brickell area has evolved to be the youngest and most progressive new neighborhood in Miami,” Owens said. “It took them a while. In early days, there was some caution on the part of retailers about who our customers would be. We’ve seen a major demographic shift.”
Brickell’s retail mix is contemporary and aspirational with Hugo Boss, Intermix, Chopard, Armani Collezioni, Sephora and Ted Baker London. There’s a strong men’s component with Suit Supply; Kiton; Stitched — which will have a scotch lounge — and Aqua di Parma, which will operate a barber shop within its store. Other brands include Kendra Scott, Caudalie, Lululemon Athletica, Reiss and Tommy Bahama.
“We’re going after an immediate market,” Owens said. “There’s also an evolution and change in people’s shopping patterns. We worked off the philosophy of having a broad tenant mix. We embrace online shopping as part of the new retail direction. There will be a transition of what’s the correct balance.”
The project’s signature design feature, a $30 million climate ribbon, has a practical purpose. The elevated trellis of steel, glass and fabric connects components of the project and harnesses Miami’s bay breezes while deflecting the sun to create a comfortable open-air shopping environment
Marc Metrick, president of Saks Fifth Avenue, described the Brickell store as “the third leg of a three-legged stool. It’s very complementary to Saks units at Bal Harbour Shops and Dadeland Mall.”
The store, designed by Saks in partnership with Jeffrey Hutchinson & Assoc., has open sight lines and a warm palette. A sculptural wall created by JP Metals Global rises three stories and hand-cut glass sculptures originating on the third floor men’s area cascade to the second level, hovering over the 10022 Shoe Salon.
“The store has a lot more of an open feel and shoppability,” Metrick said. “One of the things I was impressed with was that it’s merchandised by floor.”
Cosmetics is on the main level, along with Casa Tua Cucina, an Italian kitchen and marketplace. Ready-to-wear, shoes, jewelry and accessories are on the second floor, affording consumers cross-shopping opportunities. Metrick said the store will feature designers such as Proenza Schouler and Victoria Beckham. “It’s going to be avant-garde,” he said. “You’re going to have a little more fun there with Balmain, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela and new emerging designer businesses.”
The shoe department is the full court press. “Shoes is a dominant category,” Metrick said. “We won’t open a store in the market where it’s not signature. We stand for it and it’s part of our DNA.”
Men’s wear, including Brunello Cucinelli, Isaia, Kton and Charvet, is on three, with shoes and accessories as well as a men’s lounge with two styling rooms. John Allen in the spring will open a men’s grooming club offering hair styling and shave services with a bar and pool table. Casa Tua and Saks’ full service restaurant are also on the third floor.
Metrick said service will be a cornerstone of the store with The Fifth Avenue Club for private shopping and the Saks At Your Service Mercedes-Benz sprinter, which will bring Saks to a customer’s home, hotel or office.
“Saks is transforming,” Metrick said. “We’re building new stores and transforming our existing ones around service.
“You’ve got to love your locals,” Metrick said. “This is a market we believe in. We’ve positioned ourselves for the future. Miami is very important for [Saks’ parent Hudson Bay Company] and a very important market for Saks Fifth Avenue specifically.”
The opening of Brickell City Centre comes as many other proposed developments around Miami have either been scuttled or scaled back. Miami Worldcenter, a proposed 750,000-square-foot mall anchored by Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, has been significantly downsized to between 300,000 and 400,000 square feet sans department store anchors.
Malaysian gambling giant Genting had planned to build Resorts World Miami, a 5,000-room casino, resort and shopping center on Miami’s waterfront, but faced with community opposition, scaled back the project and subsequently stopped construction. Meanwhile, several developers, including Related, have proposed and withdrawn projects with retail components for Watson Island.