Now that control lies with the retailers, Lazenby wants to be able to offer options beyond Bal Harbour.
Cynthia Cohen, president of Strategic Mindshare, a retail consulting firm with offices in Miami, called the deal a “smart move’’ for the Whitman family. “After many years, they’re finally acknowledging that there is power in negotiating with retailers when you represent more than one center.”
After Bal Harbour’s decades-long monopoly over the luxury retail market, the pendulum is swinging to the other extreme. Miami-Dade County could find itself with as many as six destinations for luxury retail, along with an expansion of the existing Bal Harbour Shops.
“This is going to make Miami very interesting,” Cohen said. “There’s going to be some nice competition.”
The Village of Merrick Place was the first to fight Bal Harbour’s dominance when it opened in 2002, but despite signing anchors Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom, it never gained a critical mass of luxury retailers. The Design Center has drawn commitments for more designer boutiques. And Aventura Mall is also shifting its mix toward luxury retail with the opening of Louis Vuitton and the planned arrival of Cartier and others. On South Beach, retail is part of the expanded convention center now under discussion.
But will it all be too much? No, says at least one expert.
“I don’t think there’s a saturation point,” said Arthur Weiner, principal of AWE Talisman in Coral Gables, who specializes in luxury retail leasing. “Miami has grown into one of the most diversified cities in the world. The retailers do really well here. There are plenty of brands that will always keep Bal Harbour as a pearl. The growth of these other projects will take time.”
Brickell CityCentre’s primary competition is the Design District, which already has an investment from a Louis Vuitton affiliate. Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Dior Homme, Prada and Celine all opened last year in the burgeoning area; Hermes will open next month. Developer Craig Robins has commitments from more than 40 luxury brands, including Fendi, Bulgari, Pucci, De Beers, Zegna, Tom Ford, Burberry and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
By 2014 some 75 luxury brands will spread throughout the Design District, creating a new urban destination for fashionistas.
“I don’t think Bal Harbour’s expansion downtown or on Miami Beach will impact us negatively at all,” Robins said. “I am a big admirer of the Whitmans’ historical success and look forward to seeing how they intend to replicate their past accomplishments. Clearly they now acknowledge that Miami is a big market and the brands need more coverage than to just be in one isolated location.”
Brickell CityCentre expects to devote about 40 percent of its retail space to luxury retailers. The rest would be a mix of the type of upper moderate or premium retailers found at up-market malls like Aventura and Dadeland. Plans also include a department store and concentration of restaurants and entertainment.
“We think it would be insensitive and a mistake to plop down the Bal Harbour shops today at Brickell CityCentre,” Lazenby said. “Luxury should evolve over time.”