Later, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill signed a letter of intent to lease space in the garage. But the restaurant chain backed out in May after being purchased by Ruby Tuesday, Noriega said.
Noriega said the dance with potential tenants came to a halt once the season began.
“Most of them wanted to have a full season of baseball,” he said. “Baseball is sort of the baseline for them to build their business.”
So Miami has not made any money this baseball season.
Carollo and other city officials believe that will soon change.
The first lessee, a cigar shop called 100 Fires, is scheduled to open this year on the ground floor of the First Base Garage, 1502 NW Fourth St. The windows display the name of the store, but the inside remains empty.
In addition, Noriega said Miami is in final lease negotiations with the Subway sandwich chain. Conversations also continue with Lime.
The city is pinning its hopes on The Tilted Kilt, which is eyeing a corner spot in the Home Plate garage.
The Celtic-themed chain has more than 30 locations, including one in Phoenix across from the U.S. Airways Center basketball arena.
Its shtick: buxom female servers in tiny kilts and tartan bra tops.
Torre, Miami’s public facilities director, said other potential tenants were waiting to see who would be the first to sign.
“This is an anchor tenant a lot of people would be excited about,” he said.
Said Noriega: “Our hope is that we are going to, at a minimum, have five or six tenants leased and occupied by the start of the next baseball season” in April.
Jose Casanova Jr., a former city planner who specializes in Little Havana, admitted the plan may be a tough sell in a sagging economy.
“At the present time, it is going to be difficult,” he said. “The stadium is relatively isolated. It’s not connected to commercial activity in Little Havana.”
But he believes an entertainment district could be successful over time.
“In the last five years, especially on Calle Ocho between 12th and 17th avenues, we’ve seen higher-income clientele coming into the area than we have before,” he said. “If they do the right thing with promotions and incentives, a project like this could be attractive.”
For now, the storefronts remain empty.
Aguirre believes the garages will end up attracting an urgent care clinic or an immigration attorney because there is a market for those services in the neighborhood.
“The whole thing was done badly,” he said. “But now that it’s done, let’s figure out how to make it work.”