Six-business entertainment hub to open in downtown Miami Macy's ground floor
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Six restaurant and entertainment venues are slated to open by June in 20,000 square feet of street-level retail space in downtown Miami, the product of a partnership between mega-retailer Macy's and a Miami-based realty firm to transform the Central Business District into a destination that can draw more nighttime traffic.
Bill Fuller and Martin Pinilla II, co-founders and managing partners of Barlington Group, are investing the capital and Macy's is putting up the space.
Larry Gautier, regional vice president of Keyes Co., worked with Macy's on finding the right team to lease the space. He's been working with Macy's for eight years on its short- and long-term plans for excess space at the downtown store at 22 E Flagler St.
The department store owns two buildings on the east and west corners of South Miami Avenue and Flagler Street that connect by an elevated walkway.
"We are pleased about the new plan and look forward to the energy and excitement it will bring to the area," said Melissa Goff, a spokeswoman for Macy's Southeast region, via e-mail.
This day-and-night culinary and entertainment complex planned in the west building is to include several restaurants, bars and even a live jazz and blues venue, said Mr. Pinilla, who along with Mr. Fuller formed Barlington Group in 2004.
He said he couldn't announce tenants until all the leases are signed but described them as "unique and dynamic."
All the tenants are new to the Miami-Dade market, Mr. Gautier added.
"All of the tenants that are going to be on board have committed to each of the spaces and each of the groups have been hand-selected," Mr. Pinilla said. They've been "sort of curated to create the proper synergy. Although only a couple of them have executed leases, the rest are in the final stages of getting the leases executed."
An architect has also been hired to design a new façade to rejuvinate the building's appearance, Mr. Fuller said, and add lighting and other attractive elements at par with Miami's nightlife.
"We hope to create more activity on the street and Macy's hopes it will help increase store traffic and increase synergy among businesses in that core," he said.
All the venues are to face either Southwest First Street, South Miami Avenue or Flagler Street, Mr. Pinilla noted.
The team said it's is scheduled to formally present the project at the Jan. 13 City of Miami commission meeting to familiarize elected officials and the community with the full scope of the plans.
Macy's and downtown have clashed in recent years.
In February 2009, the national retailer announced a companywide reorganization that called for reducing personnel in its downtown Miami headquarters by cutting 600 locally-based jobs and leaving a large void to fill at the property.
In late 2006, Macy's complained to the Downtown Development Authority and the city about downtown's appearance and safety issues, raising concerns that the national retailer could leave the urban core.
This new deal also comes when Macy's tenant in the east building, Florida International University, has found a new home.
After considering multiple bids for relocation of its downtown business school hub, the university awarded the lease, estimated at 30,000 square feet, to twin-tower 1101 Brickell Ave.
After years of leasing at Macy's, the school opted to move to Brickell Avenue, joining other universities with a presence on Miami's Financial District.
With this new project, Mr. Gautier said the goal is to add restaurant and entertainment tenants that can bring a "wow factor" to downtown, appealing to its growing condo community and visitor industry, which includes tourists and cruise passengers and crews.
The team seeks to create a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly destination with sidewalk seating like Brickell's Mary Brickell Village, Mr. Gautier said, while "creating something not present in Miami-Dade right now."
Once all the leases get inked, Mr. Fuller said, build-out is to begin right away, as the goal is to complete the renovation within four to six months.
"By then," he said, "we should see the beginning of a whole new moment for this area of downtown."
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