Miami-Dade County

Miami Worldcenter ditches mall, submits detailed ‘high-street retail’ plan

A rendering of the planned new open-air pedestrian retail mall that’s part of the proposed new plan for the Miami Worldcenter shopping district.
A rendering of the planned new open-air pedestrian retail mall that’s part of the proposed new plan for the Miami Worldcenter shopping district.

Six months after announcing they would ditch a plan for a long-awaited, multi-block enclosed shopping mall, the developers of the massive Miami Worldcenter have submitted a new “high-street retail” blueprint to the city that significantly reshapes the project, breaking it up over three-and-a-half city blocks and giving it a far more urban look and feel.

Instead of one solid, interconnected shopping and parking structure spanning multiple blocks in the heart of the desolate Park West section north of downtown — a scheme that some critics complained was monolithic and cut off nearby Overtown from Biscayne Boulevard — the new shopping and dining center would cover the same area with five separate retail buildings of varying heights, in addition to two previously planned residential towers, both of which are also to be lined at ground level with retail.

“It’s very interactive, internally and externally, with pedestrians and on the streets,” said Ryan Bailine, an attorney at Greenberg Traurig representing Miami Worldcenter and its partner in the shopping development, retail giant Taubman Centers.

The fresh plan, which will receive its first and only public airing later this month before the city’s Urban Design Review Board, adds a significant new element — a north-south open-air pedestrian mall that runs through the center of the shopping area from Northeast 10th Street, the project’s north border, to Northeast Seventh Street, which Worldcenter plans to convert into a pedestrian path.

The new proposal, by the project’s original planners and designers, the prominent Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects, also leaves Northeast Eighth Street as an uncovered, open-air roadway. The old blueprint had the shopping and parking structure spanning over a portion of the street, a feature that critics said blocked views across the neighborhood. Like the old plan, the new blueprint also includes two plazas, at the north and south ends of the shopping area, that will serve as public civic space, but they’re now bigger.

But it also retains what has been a controversial feature: turning Northeast Seventh and Ninth Streets into pedestrian-only paths between Northeast Second and North Miami Avenues. The city’s decision to turn over control of the two streets, as well as Northeast Eighth, to Miami Worldcenter prompted an unsuccessful lawsuit from some nearby residents and business owners. Ninth Street would be partially covered under the new plan.

Most retail buildings, which will range between 90 and 129 feet in height, will have active entrances on surroundings streets, giving the project more of a traditional city feel and function than the previous plan, which consisted of uniform deck 129 feet high across all blocks, the developers say.

What the plan conspicuously doesn’t include: designated big-box structures for the two department stores, Macy’s and Bloomingdales, that would have anchored the original scheme. The new blueprint reduces the total amount of retail and restaurant space to about 430,000 square feet from the originally planned 760,000 square feet.

The center’s developers have said previously that the new reduced plan means the department stores could drop out, though they would try to accommodate them. But they said Friday they had no news on that front.

The first of the high-rises, the Paramount condo tower, had been approved separately and is already under construction. Under the new plan, it would retain promised amenities, including a well publicized soccer field. But instead of the previously announced nine-acre deck, in the new scheme the swimming pools and soccer field would sit atop a separate retail and parking building across the proposed new pedestrian mall. The Paramount and the private amenities deck would be connected by pedestrian bridge.

A separate retail and parking building would abut the base of the Paramount, also topped with a connected amenities deck for the condo. The elimination of the parking and shopping podium allows the tower to gain units, from 485 to 577. The second tower, Luma, has yet to begin construction.

Separately, Miami Worldcenter has also won city approval for Seventh Street Apartments, an 863-unit, two-tower multi-family complex to be built on the south side of the planned Seventh Street Promenade. The complex will also be lined with retail at ground level.

The broader Miami Worldcenter master plan, which has been in the works for more than a decade amid delays and litigation, also encompasses a massive convention center and hotel complex being developed separately on the site of the old Miami Arena directly to the west of the Seventh Street Apartments. The apartments and the convention center will connect directly to the new All Aboard Florida train station now under construction to its west.