An outdoor shopping mall in Aventura where bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc parked his Trump-stickered van has seen better days.
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When it opened in the late 1980s, the Waterways Shoppes featured fancy restaurants, an art gallery and an antique shop.
Unicorn Village opened a health-food market and restaurant. Whole Foods moved in. Patrick Swayze opened a restaurant, soon to become a Crab House and an Italian bistro.
Fancy yachts pulled up to the adjoining marina for a night on the town.
In recent years, many of the specialty boutiques have closed, as have many of the restaurants. A post office and coffee shop remain. And a child-care center moved in.
The old health food market is now a kosher grocery. Other Kosher restaurants and a synagogue also opened.
But the high-end days have passed since the mall opened in 1988 as Waterplace. Until about five years ago, a few nights a week pianist and singer Benji Rafaeli livened up the place with upbeat Barry Manilow and Israeli songs. An older crowd danced the Hora in front of a stage.
Now, the parking lot could use a good sweep. And the plaza looks like it needs a coat of paint.
Owners have been talking about redeveloping the center for several years.
The mini-mall opened about six years before Aventura incorporated as a city, just as a wave of luxury condos were being planned or built in the area. It’s tucked about a mile east of Biscayne Boulevard and is a mile north of the Aventura Mall.
Here is the 1988 article in the Miami Herald on the opening for the shopping center:
May 17, 1988: There’s not a video store or frame shop in sight at this North Dade neighborhood center — only stores selling $1,000 shoes and $1,500 leather sweatshirts.
Located just north of some of North Dade’s most expensive condominiums, Waterplace is zeroing in on the neighboring upscale market.
“It’s a lifestyle center,” said Alan Krinsky, leasing consultant for the center, who prefers not to use the adjective “upscale.”
“Waterplace has great food, exciting shops and interesting people. It will become the place to shop,” Krinsky said, with enthusiasm befiting an aggressive marketer.
Waterplace opened — partially — in February. But many display windows are still empty, and construction workers are putting finishing touches on portions of the center.
“We missed the season,” Krinsky said on a recent walking tour of the 87,000-square-foot minimall, located in the 3500 block of Northeast 207th Street.
Ninety percent of the mall’s space is leased, Krinsky added. And despite the seasonal lull, business for the mall’s two restaurants and its retailers is good, he said.
Luis Guerra, manager of Le Player, a men’s and women’s European fashion store, said his store’s sales have improved almost on a daily basis as more people learn that Waterplace exists.
One store manager, who preferred not to be identified, said that while current business is “a little slow” now, prospects are “fantastic.”
Michael Cannon, president of Appraisal and Real Estate Economics Associates Inc., said that the area’s upper middle class and luxury condominiums are creating their own market environment. Waterplace appears to be doing better than other retail developments in the area, such as Loehmann’s Plaza, which Cannon said is at least 50 percent vacant.
Rental rates in the Mediterranean-style development reflect its unique market niche, Krinsky said. While the typical strip center charges between $18 and $20 a square foot, Waterplace space goes for more than $30 a square foot.
The tenant mix at Waterplace was carefully thought out, Krinsky said. “We tried to bring in businesses that already have large followings.”
For example, Canastel’s is a well-known New York restaurant familiar to many seasonal residents in the Turnberry area. The same owners, Krinsky said, opened a Canastel’s restaurant in Waterplace.
The term “upscale” doesn’t do Waterplace justice, Krinsky said, because its restaurants and retailers offer many products affordable to people of relatively modest financial means. Prices in one of the boutiques may range from $25 to several thousand dollars, he said.
Waterplace has an adjoining marina, which later this year will be expanded from 100 slips to 300, Krinsky said. While most slips will be rented on an annual basis, ample space will be retained for shoppers.
Waterplace was developed by New Yorkers Paul Slayton and Barry Dimson, who also developed Oceanwalk, a family and entertainment-oriented shopping mall in Hollywood.