Swerdlow plans restaurant, retail project for Jackson health district

12/17/2013 6:03 PM

12/18/2013 12:02 PM

The busy Jackson health district may soon have more options for eating out.

Miami developer Michael Swerdlow and a financial partner are set to break ground in January on Shops of Civica, a restaurant and retail project at 1050 NW 14th Street in the Jackson health district.

It is the first phase of what is expected eventually to include a separate tower with either apartments or offices or medical-research space.

The health district “has got three hospitals, including the VA Hospital and an enormous population. Plus, it’s got the courthouse. There are thousands of people every day who have jury duty who need to eat,” said Swerdlow, chairman and CEO of the Swerdlow Group.

“There are really limited food opportunities in that area,” said Roger LeBlanc, the leasing agent and retail consultant for the project.

Swerdlow and joint-venture partner Rockpoint Group LLC, a Boston-based real-estate equity fund, recently closed on a construction loan. In May, the developer purchased the site, which housed the Rodeway Inn, for $16 million, according to public records. The old hotel was demolished by September.

The project already has attracted a variety of first-floor tenants, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Smoothie King, Watch Me — a cell-phone accessory and women’s accessories shop — and The Gift Shop, according to LeBlanc, managing member of Retail Realty Associates LLC in Boca Raton.

For the second floor, International Restaurant Management Group, a Coral Gables firm, has obtained a master lease for a food court that is expected to include Lotus Express, Cajun Grill, Suki Hana and Chicken Connection, LeBlanc added.

LeBlanc said the developer plans later to construct a second building on the 1.9-acre site but hasn’t decided what it will be. “We’re not that far down the road on it. It would be a vertical tower, and it would have a parking structure and be built above it,” LeBlanc said.

The site became mired in controversy in 2010 when Swerdlow was pursuing plans to build Civica Tower, a 25-story office building, next to the campus of Jackson Memorial, financed with millions of dollars of Miami-Dade County bonds.

Plans for the tower, which was to house Jackson employees and community doctors, lost hospital support after a Miami-Dade Office of Inspector General’s report in August 2010 found “serious concerns about the integrity and objectiveness” of the project, questioning the way Jackson Health System leaders worked closely with Swerdlow on the plans. Swerdlow and hospital officials denied any wrongdoing.

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