In many ways, Miami Beachs Lincoln Road has come full circle.
In its original heyday during the 1940s and 50s, Lincoln Road was known as the Fifth Avenue of the South with an impressive collection of retailers that included Saks Fifth Avenue, Harry Winston jewelers and Bonwit Teller.
Once again, Lincoln Road is back on top, gaining recognition from retailers and investors as one of the great shopping streets in America. Only this time, the new anchor tenants include this weeks opening of H&M, followed later this month by Forever 21.
Whats driving Lincoln Road is whats driving the rest of Miami: Weve become the capital of South America, said Michael Comras, a local broker and property owner on Lincoln Road. Everyone is enamored of Lincoln Road because of the volume of people. But you have to pay to play.
Long gone are the days when retailers and investors had to be convinced of the viability of South Beach as a shopping destination. Today, Lincoln Road is near the top of the wish list for many national and international retailers. The biggest challenges: finding space and rising prices. Recent openings include Lacoste, Fossil and Desigual. Coming soon are fashion retailers Armani Jeans, Custo Barcelona and John Varvatos, along with specialty shops Dylans Candy Bar, Tesla Motors and Lush cosmetics.
That doesnt include national chains like Nike, Urban Outfitters and Microsoft, all of whom are reportedly scouting for expansion opportunities. Plus, long-time tenant The Gap plans to demolish its existing stores on Lincoln early next year and build a two-store building with a dramatic curved glass façade.
There are more tenants that want to be there than there is space available, said Stephen Bittel, whose firm Terranova and an affiliate of Acadia Realty Trust paid nearly $52 million last year to buy property on Lincoln Road. The challenge is selecting the right tenants that lift the street higher. It takes the right owner with the right balance sheet that has the vision for the future.
While Lincoln Roads transformation has been in the works for more than 20 years, its now reaching a new level of critical mass.
One key step was developer Robert Wennetts creation of the 11 11 Lincoln building, designed by famed Swiss architect Herzog & de Meuron and opened in spring 2010. The $65 million mixed-use project added a new level of upscale tenants to Lincoln Road that include Nespresso, Juvia restaurant, Taschen books and fashion boutiques Coltorti, Alchemist and Y-3.
I saw the potential of Lincoln Road and thought it could get a lot better than what it was, but it needed a catalyst, Wennett said. Our project has helped re-invigorate locals coming to Lincoln Road. We brought the kind of tenants they wanted to have.
Another catalyst was the New World Symphonys move in 2011 into its new campus designed by architect Frank Gehry, complete with a city park featuring a video projection wall for live outdoor concerts.
Add to that a booming tourism market, with an influx of luxury hotels in and around Lincoln Road. Together, the changes have reinforced Lincoln Roads position as a must-stop destination for tourists visiting both Miami Beach and Miami.
Lincoln Road represents an amazing opportunity because of the consumer base, said Steve Birkhold, president and chief executive of Lacoste North America, who also in a previous job brought Diesel jeans to Lincoln Road. Its one of the premier shopping streets. All over the country, theyre building lifestyle centers to do the same thing as Lincoln Road. Its hard to replicate this because its so authentic.