Doral has never had a reputation for fine dining or trendy nightlife.
But developers say a massive, mixed-use project set to open in December could change the vibe in this industrial, western suburb of Miami-Dade County.
Codina Partners and Lennar Commercial have announced that their $1 billion Downtown Doral development will include popular restaurants such as Bulla, a Spanish tapas-style gastrobar with a location in Coral Gables; Dragonfly, a Japanese restaurant in Gainesville that is a favorite with college students and young professionals; Passion del Cielo, a coffee house and cafe now in Coral Gables; and Freddo, a gelato bar.
“We went after the tenants that we wanted here,” said Codina CEO Ana Codina Barlick. “The restaurants are fully curated. We decided what kind of restaurants we wanted and we actively went after building that mix.”
The team behind Bulla will also debut a new ceviche joint called Pisco y Nazca, and Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine will open another Doral restaurant in at the 120-acre project.
Doral is filled with office workers and affluent locals but has little in the way of restaurants or retail beyond lunch counters, chain restaurants and strip malls. Several developers hoping to take advantage of that captive, under-served audience have announced major mixed-use projects in the city, but Downtown Doral will be the first to open to the public. It stretches from NW 79th Ave. to NW 87th Ave. between NW 54th St. and the White Course.
Hirofumi Leung, co-owner of Dragonfly, which also has a location in Orlando, said he had never heard of Doral before Codina chairman Armando Codina dined at his restaurant. Codina was impressed enough to ask Leung if he’d be interested in leasing space at the project.
“I’d heard of South Beach, I’d heard of Brickell,” Leung said. “But then I learned that Donald Trump had invested a lot of money there, and that Downtown Doral’s plan was to change the face of the city.”
Leung said the new Dragonfly would be a “mom-and-pop-style Japanese tavern” with a boutique fish market in front.
Downtown Doral will also include service-oriented shops for locals including a salon, UPS Store, Continental Bank, AT&T Store, drycleaner and liquor store.
The new tenants mean that Phase One of the project, which has 80,000 square feet of commercial space, is 60 percent leased. Codina said developers are close to signing leases that will take up an additional 30 percent of that space. Prospective tenants include a cigar bar, a furniture store, a Realtor’s office and a casual Mexican restaurant.
The mixed-use project also includes about 400,000 square feet of fully leased office space and a charter school that will open with 380 students in August. A nearly sold-out luxury condo tower with about 200 units starting at $390,000 is set to open by the end of the year.
“We expect this to become a destination,” Codina said. “We want people to say, ‘Let’s go to Downtown Doral and walk around and decide where to have dinner.’”
Construction on Phase Two will start this summer and is expected to take 18 months. It will offer a similar mix of trendy restaurants and convenient retail, Codina said, as well as more office space, a 50,000-square-foot supermarket and a second condo tower.
The project is designed to avoid clogs as visitors seek to move from Downtown Doral in and out of city’s notoriously traffic-clogged streets. Public buses and Doral’s trolley system already make stops there; developers are also providing bike lanes and nearly 500 spaces of free parking in two covered garages.
Michael Fay, a principal at the commercial real estate firm Avison Young, agreed the project was a step in the right direction for Doral.
“Having good restaurants and a good mixture of cuisines is a big draw for locals and for people around the county,” Fay said. “This is going to bring a greater sense of community to the city.”