Think Madison Avenue in New York or Michigan Avenue in Chicago: Urban shopping is a major attraction in any savvy city, but in Miami, that has long been the missing link.
The groundbreaking Wednesday for Brickell CitiCentre marks a key step in changing that paradigm and boosting Miami’s evolution as a 24-hour metropolis. The $1.05-billion urban shopping and mixed-use development will be spread over three blocks just west of Brickell Avenue and south of the Miami River. Connected by bridges and covered walkways, the 5-million-square-feet project will include a department store, luxury shops, restaurants, a hotel, office towers and condominiums.
For developer Swire Properties, Brickell CitiCentre is an investment in Miami’s future.
“This project is not about what exists today or three years from now when we open,” said Steve Owens, president of Swire Properties. “It’s about what exists 10 years from now. The transformational aspects of this project are contagious. It’s not just about doing a large development. It’s about changing this community.”
Outside the retail shops, many of the individual elements of the project aren’t that different from what already exists in Miami’s urban core. But put them all together, and the open-air design by Miami’s Arquitectonica creates a vibrant gathering spot and a sense of place among Miami’s sea of high-rise towers.
Unlike some of the hotel and condominiums in the area, Swire is not targeting an ultra-luxury audience but a more contemporary, upper-moderate demographic. The project also hopes to find unique specialty niches like its wellness center office building targeting medical tourism
“Most of what we’ve seen in downtown are all independent pieces that sit there without any relationship to what’s next door to them,” said Andrew Dolkart, economist and president of Miami Economic Associates. “When you have a project that creates a sense of place you get a different result.”
During construction alone, Brickell CitiCentre will generate 1,700 jobs per year and more than double that number upon completion in 2015. The overall economic impact is projected at $1 billion, according to a study by Miami Economic Associates.
Since Brickell CitiCentre was announced a year ago, the spillover impact has begun, with at least five new condominium projects launching sales in the surrounding area and two more are on the drawing board.
One of those is the Related Group’s MyBrickell, which was planned before Brickell CitiCentre and has already broken ground. But the prospect of a new urban destination nearby has become a key part of the marketing package for potential new residents.
“It will be a great amenity,” said Jorge Pérez, Related’s chairman and chief executive officer. “This is the type of mixed-use development we have all wanted for the Downtown Miami / Brickell area. It really rounds off what we have been trying to do for over a decade. Miami is not just about fun and sun anymore. We are becoming a much more complete city.”
The changes are already evident in the growth of the residential population in downtown Miami and Brickell Avenue. Over the past decade that number has nearly doubled, reaching 71,600 in 2011 as residents filled up the new condominiums. By 2016, that population is expected to hit 85,000. Add in the existing work-day population of about 200,000, and the combination becomes extremely attractive for both restaurants and retailers.