In With the New: The Lifestyle Center Transformation

by Scott Reid

More than 2 million square feet of retail space is under construction or planned in Miami-Dade County, most of which is coming online in Miami’s urban core.

Much more than traditional shopping malls, master-planned projects such as Brickell City Centre, Miami World Center and the redeveloped Design District are introducing consumers to a retail model centered on lifestyle experiences within mixed-use environments.

Property owners are also making a move to transform existing retail complexes into lifestyle centers that satisfy consumers’ craving for this new type of shopping and dining experience. Everything is on the table, from capital improvements to fresh branding campaigns and creative leasing strategies. Owners are also looking to infuse local character into their properties.

What’s driving property owners to transform their centers? Results.

A unique retail and shopping destination has the power to transform an area into a wholly new destination. Take Sunset Harbour Shops, home to 30,000 square feet of retail in Miami Beach. The complex, built from scratch within the past three years, has attracted an eclectic mix of local operators introducing restaurants and bars, boutiques, specialty food stores and niche fitness providers serving area residents and patrons from outside the neighborhood.

In Miami’s Dadeland area, a diverse suburb with a strong built-in workforce and a large residential base, a joint venture between Duncan Hillsley Capital and Pebb Capital, in partnership with Canyon Capital Realty Advisors, recently acquired the 127,000-square-foot Downtown Dadeland retail complex. The group is investing millions to enhance the center’s look and feel, adding dynamic retailers and eateries that will serve up an urban experience with local flair alongside existing users such as Chili’s and West Elm.

CREC’s Downtown Dadeland leasing team is working to add a new sense of place to the property, with health and wellness retailers, chef-driven restaurants that bring loyal followings, and high-end boutiques sporting locally-grown brands.

Data indicates this trend is not limited to South Florida. Nielsen’s 2014 State of the Shopping Centers report found that the percentage of lifestyle centers in the US has grown from just 9 percent of the market in 2008 to 15 percent in 2014.

In Atlanta, the newly-opened mixed-used development Avalon in the Alpharetta suburb focused first on securing chefs such as Steve Palmer, Shaun Doty and Ford Fry to open new restaurants. The buzz-creating eateries served as the magnet to attract brands such as Lululemon, Anthropologie and Exhale Spa. In a sign of the changing times, the retailers followed the restaurants.

Instilling local character into a lifestyle retail center has the power to lure new tenants while drawing consumers, in turn maximizing asset value and helping users achieve long-term success.

— Rafael Romero serves as associate vice president at Miami-based Continental Real Estate Companies (CREC).

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