Locals like Catherine Cozias have mixed feelings about the changes. She likes the arrival of the more upscale boutiques on Lincoln Roads west end and the closing of some of the rundown older shops, but she doesnt want the unique character of the street to change.
I hope they dont eat up all the small businesses totally and replace them with bigger chains, said Cozias, 35, who lives on Brickell Avenue and was enjoying lunch one recent day at Juvia on Lincoln Road. I dont want to be at a mall when Im on Lincoln Road.
The problem: most local tenants are getting priced out of Lincoln Road.
Long gone are the 1980s when you could get retail space on a rundown Lincoln Road for less than $5 per-square-foot. By the late 90s, it seemed like a boom when rents hit $40-$60 per foot and the first national tenants like The Gap and Pottery Barn arrived.
Little did anyone know that was just the beginning. Even through the recession rents held strong. In 2009 retail spaces were leasing at $150 per square foot. In the last year, rents broke the $200 mark and continue to climb as high as $300.
When pricing gets really high you dont get crappy tenants, you get better tenants, said Lyle Stern, a local broker and property owner on Miami Beach. You need people that can generate the sales to pay the rent.
Many retailers on Lincoln Road ring up sales of $1,000 to $2,000 per square foot or more numbers that rank among the top five shopping streets in the country. Bal Harbour Shops sales last year were $2,555 per square foot, putting it as the top mall in the country. While Lincoln Road sales are not at the level of New Yorks Fifth or Madison avenues, its definitely close behind think Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles or Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
Yet, before H&M made the decision to open one of its five flagship stores in the U.S. at the Lincoln Theatre, North American President Daniel Kulle spent a half a day camped out across the street at Sushi Samba restaurant. Kulle wanted to be sure he was getting the right location. Over the years, he had turned down several other options on Lincoln.
When you make that kind of investment, you have to believe in it both from a branding perspective and a traffic perspective, Kulle said. There is no other way to do it but to be there and see it for yourself. By the end of the day he was sold.
Interest from such high-profile retailers is fueling demand and prices for real estate transactions on Lincoln Road. Volume of property sales on the eight-block street has more than quadrupled over the last decade, with prices hitting an unheard of $1,081 per square foot in 2012, according to data from Real Capital Analytics and HFF.
In July, the New York-based Vornado Realty Trust paid $132 million for the 1100 Lincoln Road property that is home to Regal Cinemas and Banana Republic. A subsidiary of Crown Acquisitions of New York paid $16 million for the Van Dyke building at 846 Lincoln Road this summer.
Danny Finkle, senior managing director of HFF in Miami, said his commercial real estate firm gets multiple calls every week from investors interested in purchasing retail property on Lincoln Road. These requests are coming from a wide range of clients including private individuals, off-shore families and multi-billion dollar U.S. real estate investment firms.