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Big Box coming to Midtown


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Well, we're getting retail near the core. All these people are going to have to shop somewhere, but the midtown development will have a suburban feel to it.

Big retailers head for Miami's core

At least five national retailers are expected to open stores at The Shops at Midtown Miami, expected to open in 2006 on the former Buena Vista rail yard.


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The big-box retailers that can be found on every suburban South Florida street corner are finally coming to Miami's urban core.

Target, Linens 'n Things, Circuit City, OfficeMax and PETsMART are in the initial lineup of retailers expected to open stores at The Shops at Midtown Miami, according to several industry sources. These tenants would fill a little less than half of the 600,000-square-foot shopping center scheduled to open in summer 2006 on the former Buena Vista rail yard.

The project aims to fill a retail void for anyone living in Miami's Upper East Side, Miami Beach, Brickell and Key Biscayne. Those residents now trek to Aventura or Kendall to find such large stores. It's a trend happening in urban markets across the country as retailers turn to nontraditional locations to meet the needs of consumers hungry for shopping options.

''Fantastic!'' said William Hopper, president of the Morningside Civic Association, when he heard of the plans. The historic neighborhood -- a stone's throw northeast of the project -- ''really needs some major stores nearby,'' he said.

In addition to the shopping center, the 56-acre Midtown Miami project also includes a mixed-use residential and office development of about 3,000 condos, offices and other types of retail space. The project on the outskirts of Wynwood and the Design District is expected to serve as an anchor for the continued revitalization of Biscayne Boulevard and Miami's urban core.

''Target realizes there is a major underserved market in the whole region,'' said Alan Esquenazi, vice president of Continental Real Estate Cos., who represents Target locally in its leasing efforts. ``There seems to be a genuine interest on the part of the retailer and the developer to make this project happen.''


Target spokeswoman Aimee Sands acknowledged that the retailer has ''expressed interest in that site'' but was not prepared to make any announcement.

Developers Diversified Realty, the Cleveland-based real estate investment trust that is building The Shops at Midtown Miami, also declined Tuesday to confirm any of the tenants.

''At this time we're not prepared to announce our tenants,'' said Scott Schroeder, a spokesman for Developers Diversified.

``Tenant interest remains very strong.''

Industry sources say it has taken more than a year to convince retailers of the area's viability given the nontraditional location.

''The neighborhood is a little edgy,'' said Michael Finkle, managing director with the Koniver Stern Group. ``It's not a suburban deal that they can easily understand. It takes somebody who is willing to buy into it.''

While the site is expected to draw customers from as far away as Miami Beach and Brickell Avenue, there isn't the typical volume of rooftops surrounding the location that retailers like to see. And many of the closest homes are lower-income housing.

Another challenge for retailers has been the site plan, which will require nontraditional layouts including multistory retail and parking decks.

But at least some retailers have decided it's worth the gamble.

''This is one of those unique opportunities where you have got to have a little bit of vision,'' said Hugh Scullin, senior vice president of real estate for Linens 'n Things.

``It's definitely on the fringe, but it's got great upside. To find a parcel that big in an urban market doesn't happen very often. Sometimes you have got to get in early.''


Many of these retailers have been looking for years for additional locations in Miami but have been unable to expand because of a lack of available real estate.

Midtown Miami's proximity to the Julia Tuttle Causeway and Interstate 95 is expected to help the project draw customers from among the 1.2 million people living within a 10-mile radius.

Now that the first group of tenants is lined up, retail industry experts expect the pace of the leasing efforts to escalate.


''There's a need for retail in that area,'' said Paco Diaz, a vice president with CB Richard Ellis.

``With that mass of retailers, the rest of the sheep should follow.''

But Rosie Gordon-Wallace, longtime proprietor of Diaspora Vibe Gallery in the Design District, was looking for a different kind of sheep.

''I was hoping the neighborhood could attract more entrepreneurial ventures that would be one of a kind,'' she said.

``How do we keep the place unique?''

Herald staff writer Gail Meadows contributed to this report.

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I agree. It can be a good thing to have chain retail in urban areas. I'm impressed with the way Publix has designed their urban locations. I think this will be a good thing, as long as it's designed well. I've been in a 2-story Target in the Pompano/Deerfield area. It was pretty cool, and it had an escalator designated for shopping carts only. Nifty....

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I've been in an urban Target in Boston and an urban Kmart in Harlem and both seemed suitable for their locations to me. As long as they can keep out Walmart, though thats virtually impossible with the way they are expanding in Florida. Hopefully if they do eventually move into Miami Dade county it will be well past Kendall.

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We have some Wal-marts already out in the burbs. There's talk of building a few in the northwest miami ghetto burbs as well.

As far as shopping already, there really isn't a lot there now to enhance.

I'll see how this one turns out. Hopefully they develop a retail district that attracts smaller shops as well.

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Well, Target has it's Workd HQ and a really nice two story store in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, right on the Nicollet Mall, two blocks away from Marshall Field's flagship store and HQ.

The store's business is booming. If done correctly, it can be a very good thing.

It was pretty cool, and it had an escalator designated for shopping carts only. Nifty....

Those are pretty cool, huh? My mom put an empty cart in one just to see it work once. :lol:

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