International Fine Arts College moving into former Omni Mall
By Paola Iuspa
International Fine Arts College plans to move by fall into the vacant Omni Center, a former retail mall, renamed to be a technology center and now being marketed for mixed use.
Education Management Corp., new owners of Miami's International Fine Arts College on Monday signed an agreement to lease 100,000 square feet in the structure at Biscayne Boulevard and 15th Street. Known for less than two years as Omni Technology Center, the former mall has more than 1 million square feet of space.
Ownership of the Miami school, with about 1,100 students, changed hands in January. Pittsburgh-based Education Management is parent company to The Art Institutes, which provides private post-secondary education at 40 campuses in 26 US cities with about 39,000 students nationwide.
Erika Fleming, International Fine Arts College interim president, said her institution will continue to offer courses in computer animation, fashion design, merchandising, film, graphic design, interior design and visual arts. It is not clear if the college's new owner wants to add programs, she said.
The college now leases space at Miami Women's Club, 1737 N Bayshore Drive, and The Grand, 1717 N Bayshore Drive. Ms. Fleming said the school will keep its space at the women's club and probably some at The Grand.
Mark Teitelbaum, COO with Argent Ventures of New York, which bought the Omni in November 2000 for $33 million, said Education Management, which signed a long-term agreement, would be the center's first tenant to move into the building since his company acquired it. Initially pouring money into the former mall to convert it into a telecommunications center, he said they changed plans about nine months ago, after demand for telecom space weakened.
"Originally, we were developing the property for high-tech uses," Mr. Teitelbaum said, and added that his company has other technology-driven properties across the US also being repositioned for mixed-use.
Before pursuing tenants other than the school, Mr. Teitelbaum said, "we wanted to get this deal done first to help trigger other interests and uses" for the center. He said they are negotiating with local and national media and entertainment companies and are studying the feasibility of dedicating a portion of the center to retail.
"We know retail is feasible," he said. "It is just being fine-tuned. In a few weeks we are going to start a marketing campaign."
Argent is a private real estate investment company that owns and operates specialized properties serving telecommunications and technology industries worldwide.
With almost no tenants and little pedestrian traffic, the Omni closed in 2000 as a shopping mall.
But Mr. Teitelbaum said blossoming redevelopment of the Omni area can again support retail. At least three residential-commercial projects are planned nearby and the $255 million performing arts center is under construction two blocks south.
Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said Education Management Corp.'s presence in the area is a step toward "a dynamic new center of urban economic activity along the Biscayne Boulevard corridor between the American Airlines Arena and the Miami Design District."