Business Monday

New Kendall wing brings trendy twist to Dadeland Mall

Poised near the main entrance of Dadeland Mall, a new, modern wing is emerging, filling with retail tenants, and soon, an array of restaurants that its developers are hoping will make the iconic shopping center an even greater destination for both residents and tourists.

With an open, airy feel thanks to high ceilings and skylights that beam in rays of natural light, the new Kendall wing offers 102,000 square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment space — without actually increasing the mall’s footprint.

Instead, a building that formerly housed two stores — Express and the Limited — was torn down to make way for the new wing, creating an expanded venue for 22 retailers and, most notably, five dining establishments, including the first Bobby Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palace in the Southeast.

“Dadeland is one of the absolute top performers in Simon’s portfolio, and there is an enormous amount of demand for retail space,” said Kathy Shields, senior vice president at Simon Property Group, the managing partner of Dadeland, which purchased a 50 percent ownership stake in 1997. Morgan Stanley owns the other share.

So far, 17 stores and one restaurant are open at the Kendall wing, with more openings scheduled for later this month through early next year.

From the outside, the architectural design of the new wing stands out. A second-floor, cantilevered dining terrace, fountains and colorful nighttime lights offer a distinction from the rest of the mall, located at 7535 North Kendall Drive, near the intersection of U.S. 1.

“We have really brought the Miami Beach element to Kendall,” said Dadeland Mall General Manager Maria Prado, “very modern, very cutting edge. That’s the feeling we’re going after.”

Two additional levels of garage parking, with about 400 open spaces, as well as a new valet parking stand, supplement the exterior changes.

Inside the Kendall wing, leather sofas in central seating areas, a mosaic floor and two-story fiber optic chandelier also offer a welcome departure.

“It’s beautiful. They did a great job,” said Eddie Garcia, 43, of West Kendall, who was relaxing in a chair, biding his time before picking up his daughter from summer camp. “It would be great if the whole mall were like this.”

Aside from the stores, for the first time, Dadeland is expanding its range of restaurants, with space gained at the new two-story wing. Besides the food court and kiosks, the only full-scale restaurants at the mall before were Villagio and Cheesecake Factory, which has renovated its patio space in line with the new wing.

“That’s why the restaurants are so important,” Prado said. “When you look at this area and you see how much traffic we have, it’s what we need for our market — we need more options for eating.”

Dadeland Mall is ranked as one of the premier malls in the country in terms of sales per square foot, said retail consultant Cynthia Cohen, president of Miami-based Strategic Mindshare. Neither Simon nor Dadeland discloses that figure, however, and neither could Cohen.

Smack in the middle of a densely populated area and just a short distance from Kendall, Coral Gables, the University of Miami, Pinecrest and other communities, Dadeland’s location is a major plus, Cohen said.

And adding a new wing, which will boost its selling square footage, is an excellent strategy, while following the trends prevalent among shopping centers today, she said.

The wing’s brighter and more dramatic exterior, modernistic design and luxurious common areas are all aimed at luring shoppers to linger, mirroring the current aesthetic pursued by shopping center developers. And its focus on dining is on target with the current mindset, Cohen said.

“It’s more than architectural — it’s a higher percentage of food,” she said, citing dining as an experience for which online shopping can’t compete.

“Restaurants are much more of a draw—they are a destination,” Cohen said. “And there is a higher percentage of restaurants in any new building, and there is more square footage.”

That was decidedly part of the allure for Bobby’s Burger Palace, said Laurence Kretchmer, Bobby Flay’s partner in the business. The chain has 15 restaurants nationwide, with the closest to South Florida in Virginia.

“We picked Miami because we think it’s an exciting, energized market that will be very receptive to a new version of something it is already familiar with: cheeseburgers,” Kretchmer said.

Bobby’s Burger Palace already leases space in other malls owned by Simon, so that established relationship with the developer was another plus, he said.

“When we went to look at this property it had a lot of the hallmarks we look for, which has to do with the tenant mix, the type of customer it attracts, and we liked the idea that the entire mall was under-restauranted,” Kretchmer said. “We also rely a lot on the convenience factor. And we don’t want to be in a mall that is saturated with food. There was a dearth of restaurants and we wanted to fill that hole.”

Moreover, Dadeland’s customers are a desirable group that retailers and restaurants are trying to reach.

“Dadeland has a very prominent position in South Florida because it’s in the middle of a densely populated, sweet spot for retailers, which is families with young children,” Cohen said, “because families with children in grammar school through high school have the most spending per household.”

The new wing begins outside of Macy’s, where the structure connects to the older part of the mall. Immediately, the new space creates a different ambiance with off-white tile and, at the back, a new escalator that will eventually lead to restaurants.

“It’s more contemporary, more modern,” said Omelio Arrabal, 56, an architect who was walking through the upstairs space for exercise after lunch. “It looks nice.”

Simon Property Group had owned the previous building leased by Express and the Limited, which was torn down in June 2012. Simon — which owns or manages 240 retail properties nationwide, including Miami International Mall and the Falls — hired 505Design of Boulder, Colo., to create the new wing, which took about a year to build and offers “a more efficient and productive” use of the space, Shields said. She declined to provide the amount Simon spent on the project.

The goal was to build a showcase along Kendall Drive, with a dramatic and sophisticated flair.

“We wanted to basically create a space that was architecturally interesting and compelling,” Shields said. “We wanted to make a stronger statement on Kendall Drive.”

Dadeland, one of Miami-Dade’s first shopping malls, has come a long way since it was launched as an open-air complex in 1962. At that time, it featured 60 stores and services, in 530,000 square feet of space, according to the mall.

After expanding and renovating several times over the years, today Dadeland encompasses 1.5 million square feet, and has 185 stores, including the largest Macy’s in Florida.

Prado said the mall attracts 17 million visitors annually, with about 40 percent of its business from tourists.

“We were the place to be in the ’60s, and Dadeland continues to be the center for people in this community,” she said. “We’re changing and offering the service and amenities people are looking for.”

Dadeland’s new wing has a mix of tenants, with some making their first mark on the local shopping or dining scene.

“I love it,” said Brenda Tabraue, 53, of Kendall, who was shopping with her husband Jorge at the new Tommy Bahama store, the chain’s first store south of the Village of Merrick Park, and which has the look and feel of a Florida beach house.

“We don’t need to go to Aventura anymore,” Brenda Tabraue said.

In addition to Tommy Bahama, stores already open in the new wing include a two-story Urban Outfitters, as well as Donald J. Pliner; Microsoft, Stuart Weitzman, Tesla Motors, Porsche Design, Boss Hugo Boss, Fit2Run, Everything But Water, babycottons, Luggage & more, Original Penguin, Edward Beiner, Lush and Orogold Cosmetics.

“This wing has the high end stores we are looking to be neighbors with,” said Shay Azan, owner and franchisee of Orogold, a Los Angeles-based company that chose Dadeland for its first Florida store.

Jewelry store ALO Diamonds, based in Prague, is making its first foray into the United States inside the new wing.

The high-end boutique offers hand crafted fine jewelry — diamonds and colorful gemstones — with a European flair, so the owners felt it was a perfect match for the South Florida market, said the store’s manager, John Chao.

“They felt that not only the concept but the style of jewelry would fit well in Miami,” Chao said.

Nearby, Aroma Espresso Bar has opened its first franchise south of Miami Beach — its fourth in Florida and 10th in the United States.

Aroma Espresso Bar’s New York-based Chief Operating Officer Lior Yanay, who has been in Miami to oversee the restaurant’s recent opening, describes the Israeli-based chain as “healthy, fast casual, with an international twist,” and said it is considered the Starbuck’s of Israel.

Besides coffee, the restaurant — which also has an outside patio — serves salads and sandwiches made with fresh bread, plus cookies, and gluten-free options.

“I think this mall is very powerful,” said Aroma Espresso Bar franchise partner Richard Goihman, who hopes to open more locations in South Florida.

Other stores still slated to open in the new wing include Express, which will have its second largest store nationwide, after New York, as well as Vince Camuto, Free People, PUMA and Times Square.

On the second floor, four restaurants are scheduled to open later this year or early next year, with interior and outdoor seating.

Next spring, Earls Kitchen Bar will open its first restaurant on the East Coast of the United States and fifth in the country, with others are in Colorado and Washington. The Vancouver-based chain has 61 restaurants in Canada.

At Dadeland, it will have an 8,500-square-foot, full-service restaurant, lounge, bar and outside patio.

“We were impressed by the quality of the development, and the space built by Simon Properties will make for a stunning, dramatic restaurant with gorgeous views and a fantastic patio,” said Earls Chief Executive Stan Fuller in a statement. “Our fellow tenants are of a very high quality and it’s an interesting and diverse neighbourhood, perfectly situated to building relationships — something Earls loves to do.”

At Bobby’s Burger Palace, which Kretchmer hopes to open by the end of this year, the setting will be colorful, as guests order at a counter, and then choose a table where at which they will be served.

The restaurant will have 3,500 square feet inside, with 74 seats, plus outside dining.

“Food is the biggest differentiator — we cook burgers to order,” Kretchmer said, citing 10 different burgers that are regionally driven, such as a Dallas burger and a Philly burger, all priced from $6.75 to $8.

Including other new restaurants — Balans and Aoki Teppanyaki — the mall’s owners hope the highly anticipated dining venue will become a beacon for customers, and give the mall a new life.

“The restaurants,” said Shields, “are going to create a tremendous amount of energy.”