JCPenney has no plans to develop in Midtown Miami before 2010, no future expansion plans in works, company officials say
By Risa Polansky
and Yudislaidy Fernandez
Though Midtown Miami representatives have anticipated since last year a 2009 opening of a JCPenney at the Wynwood complex, the retailer has no plans to develop a new Miami store this or next year, a spokesman says.
And beyond 2009, the chain has yet to set plans for new locations, spokesman Tim Lyons said, though "that doesn't mean it couldn't happen beyond that."
The souring economy has led Penney to chop expansion plans, he noted. "In general, we have scaled back on our store-opening plans for this year and next year at least just given the downturn in the economy."
The retailer intended to open 50 stores a year. This year, the total was cut to 36. Only about 20 are planned next year.
"That's just based on wanting to keep our capital spending in line with our business," Mr. Lyons said.
He maintained JCPenney never announced a Midtown Miami store.
Midtown General Manager Lenor Ryan said in a December interview that JCPenney planned to begin build-out of a 167,000-square-foot Midtown store at North Miami Avenue and 31st Street this summer, with a projected March 2009 opening.
Bruce Cutright, Midtown Group director of operations, last year projected the same date.
A staffer at public relations firm Gordon Diaz-Balart, which represents the Midtown shops, said last month a JCPenney would open there soon.
Ms. Ryan said Tuesday by e-mail that she has "not heard that JC Penney is not coming to Midtown."
But Midtown developer Developers Diversified Realty doesn't have a lease signed for the space, spokesman Betsy Keck said.
She declined to comment on JCPenney's intent not to build here this year or next, citing policy not to discuss tenants until a lease is final.
She did say, however, "We are in advanced negotiations and have significant interest in space available for the south block of The Shops at Midtown Miami."
One interested party could be Wal-Mart.
Mark Siffin is in talks with the retailer for space in his planned City Square at 431-1451 N Bayshore Drive and 425 NE 13th St., Miami Today reported last week.
Wal-Mart spokesman Michelle Azel-Belaire confirmed the talks but said no agreement is in place in any downtown space, though the company is eyeing the whole area.
"Wal-Mart has explored the City Square project among others in the downtown corridor," she said.
She said the same Tuesday when asked about interest in Midtown. "We are continually evaluating opportunities throughout the entire market."
Wal-Mart gunned for Midtown during its planning stages but was shut out by city commissioners who worried about the store's image and compatibility with downtown.
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff has expressed similar concerns about Wal-Mart's latest interest in downtown.
Another downtown retail complex is in the works, but Wal-Mart is not now among potential tenants, its developer said.
The Bayview Market in the Omni area is to boast a Lowe's home improvement store, but developer Ignacio Garcia Du-Quesne said he has not been in talks with Wal-Mart.