Five million-square-foot Swire project to break ground in Miami within year
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
The real estate giant has awakened.
Hong Kong-based Swire Properties is moving forward to convert three Brickell sites into a 5 million-square-foot, mixed-use project centered on retail expected to begin construction by the second quarter of next year.
The prime Brickell sites at 601, 700 and 701 S Miami Ave. are destined for an artful mix of upscale components that are to fit well within this booming retail hub that includes the Mary Brickell Village complex and other nearby open-air shopping centers.
"It's a major project for Brickell and urban Miami," said President Stephen Owens.
The development company has hired Arquitectonica, which has designed several projects for Swire in the past, as the architectural firm to design the CitiCentre project.
"The reason why we picked Arquitectonica is because this is similar to other urban projects they have done for us in Asia," Mr. Owens noted.
Swire has developed other sophisticated urban projects of similar scale designed by the architecture firm, including Festival Walk, a multilevel shopping, dining and leisure complex with nearly 1 million square feet in Hong Kong.
The company is getting ready to open another development close to 4 million square feet known as TaiKoo Hui in mainland China that comprises a shopping mall, two office towers, a cultural center and a Mandarin Oriental hotel with residences.
"Arquitectonica has a particular talent for this," Mr. Owens said, "and they have performed well for us in projects in other areas."
Arquitectonica Founding Principal Bernardo Fort-Brescia said the firm has been working with Swire since 1993 on designing mixed-use projects in Asia and other parts of the world.
"This is a natural evolution of the relationship between architect and developer that has been building," he said. "We'll be designing this project in our hometown. It's very exciting. It will change that location and it's a historical project for Miami."
The planned Brickell development, Mr. Owens said, is to have significant retail as well as other mixed-use components.
"It brings a significant retail opportunity to the urban area," he said.
If the majority of CitiCentre's planned 5 million square feet are designated retail, it would create a giant shopping hub unlike anything in the state.
Today, Dolphin Mall in Doral has about 1.4 million square feet of retail space, while Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, considered the second largest mall in the state, has almost 2.4 million square feet of retail.
Swire, which has been developing Brickell Key for decades, bought the first two sites at 700 and 701 S Miami Ave. more than two years ago from iStar Financial for $41.3 million cash.
Last August, the company erected signs for the project on the 5.65-acre land, but at the time executives didn't publicly discuss development plans.
Those two parcels are along Miami Avenue, bordered by Southeast Eighth and Seventh streets. The parcels are boxed in on the west by Southwest First Avenue and to the east by the Eighth Street Metromover Station.
Earlier this month, Swire acquired a third 2-acre site at 601 S Miami Ave., which houses the Brickell Tennis Club, for $14 million from an affiliate of Millennium Partners, the developer of Brickell's Four Seasons Hotel & Tower, whose project plans for the parcel never took off.
Brickell has been bursting with pedestrian activity after 5 p.m. since the addition of multiple condominiums in recent years. The growing condo community and office population are fueling more demand for retailers, eateries and entertainment venues within walking distance.
Swire promoted Christopher Gandolfo, who has been with the company 12 years, to vice president of development in late 2010 to focus on its local projects.
He rejoined the Miami team after spending two years working for parent Swire Properties Limited in Shanghai.
Mr. Owens said he couldn't provide more CitiCentre details because plans are still underway for this large-scale complex.
But he did add that this mixed-use project "will be a significant game-changer for Brickell and urban Miami."
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