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Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s to open at downtown Miami Worldcenter

Miami’s cachet as an international shopping Mecca is taking a quantum leap forward.

Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s unveiled plans to open new stores at Miami Worldcenter, the outsized, mixed-use project planned for downtown’s Park West district, which is west of Biscayne Boulevard across from AmericanAirlines Arena.

Macy’s Inc., the parent of both retailing heavyweights, expects by late 2016 to open a 195,000-square-foot Macy’s and a 120,000-square-foot Bloomingdale’s, anchoring three levels of retail comprising another 425,000 square feet.

The Forbes Company and Taubman Centers Inc., two prominent regional mall developers, formed a joint venture to develop the urban mall on a 10-acre site it is acquiring from Miami Worldcenter Associates.

Miami Worldcenter Associates, headed by Nitin Motwani and Art Falcone, is the master developer overseeing the redevelopment of some 27 acres of prime downtown property that currently includes parking lots, night clubs, an art house and a tech accelerator. Earlier development efforts had stalled during the real estate crash, but the venture has since gained momentum.

The working name for the shopping center is The Mall at Miami Worldcenter.

“Our hopes are to break ground in late 2014,” said Nathan Forbes, managing partner of Forbes, based in Southfield, Mich.

Forbes said the site for the mall — which stretches from NE Seventh Street to NE 10th Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue — is especially choice. “Direct access to I-395 and I-95 gives it a regional draw,” Forbes said. “The arts and entertainment and cultural activities are adjacent ... the Performing Arts Center, the art museum and science museum. All the trips traversing this site, we think provide a great opportunity. They add to the draw of this downtown node for redevelopment.”

“Both will be significant stores showcasing the importance of downtown Miami,” said Motwani, who predicted much more lies ahead for Miami Worldcenter, including pedestrian-friendly residential, retail and hospitality.

The long-expected announcement from Macy’s comes as Miami’s downtown is enjoying an enviable spate of new development that is transforming the once-stagnant area into a vibrant work-live-play center.

Alyce Robertson, executive director of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority, said young professionals who have moved to recently built condominiums have spawned “demand for quality retail” and “corporations are realizing this is the place to be.”

The Miami Worldcenter project is particularly exciting, she added, because “that part of downtown has been depressed for decades. It’s a shot in the arm.”

The Miami Worldcenter is already slated to get a Marriott Marquis World Convention Center Hotel on nearly five acres west of the newly unveiled retail project. A nearby Florida East Coast train station, part of the plans for All Aboard Florida rail service that will connect downtown Miami to Orlando, would also boost the visibility of the site.

In May, Miami developer MDM Development said it has a contract to purchase the old Miami Arena site for the privately financed convention center with a huge 1,800-room hotel above it. An outside spokesman for MDM on Wednesday reiterated it “has a contract to purchase the former Miami Arena site and will soon be moving forward with our plans for a hotel and convention center.”

He added: “The exciting announcement about Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s anchoring Miami Worldcenter’s retail component, coupled with our plans for a hotel and convention center, and Florida East Coast’s plans for its train station, further positions Miami Worldcenter as not only downtown Miami’s most compelling urban development, but one of our nation’s most important and largest urban renewal developments.”

Plans for the new Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s at the northern edge of the Central Business District come as Miami’s urban core is already abuzz with other plans for major retail development. In January, Swire Properties Inc. and Bal Harbour Shops unveiled plans to jointly develop 500,000 square feet of luxury shops at Swire’s Brickell City Centre, a huge mixed-use project under construction in downtown Miami. That retail venture is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2015 along with condominiums and a hotel.

Meanwhile, developer Craig Robins is going full throttle on plans for a major luxury retail destination in Miami’s once-shabby Design District; some designer shops have already opened there.

Even with the spate of new retail on the horizon downtown, those involved in the Miami Worldcenter project are bullish.

Motwani said: “This will be the first time Bloomingdale’s has a presence in downtown Miami ... and we’re excited to keep Macy’s in downtown and part of a larger state-of-the-art facility to save downtown.”

Jim Sluzewski, Macy’s Inc.’s senior vice president for corporate communications, said the company hasn’t yet decided on the future of the Flagler Street Macy’s store. “We aren’t making any final decision at this point. We have a lease to the spring of 2018. As the next two years unfold, we’ll figure out what we’re going to do,” Sluzewski said.

Macy’s future on Flagler Street has been in question since 2007 when Julie Greiner, who at the time was Macy’s Florida chairwoman, chastised city leaders for the rundown conditions in the downtown area and threatened that Macy’s might leave.