Identifying the Signs of Urban Life: Retail Activity (Pt. I)

Image: The Daily at Cite in Uptown

No Retail Activity. No Urban Life.

People need options. Construction activity and occupancy patterns aside, if there aren’t dining, shopping, and lifestyle options, then there is no community. One can view the new high density residential construction as an important component of forming a community, but the puzzle is incomplete without a vibrant retail sector. Retail activity is expected to pick up as new construction peaks and begins to subside. We will explore this expectation. Let us first consider the areas of interest:

Brickell Village

The signs are evident throughout the Core, but mostly in Brickell Village, where retail activity is spreading westward. Mary Brickell Village, still a work in progress, is comparable in layout and function to Cocowalk in the Grove. Surrounding MBV is a buzz of restaurant and retail activity, but other than MBV there are no large-scale destination-retail projects planned for Brickell. Mixed use developments will further supplement the neighborhood with ground level retail. The area affords its residents the most options for dining and shopping in the entire Core and when fully considered, Brickell Village’s emerging retail potential might seem hard to eclipse.

Image: P.F. Chang’s Mary Brickell Village

Uptown and the Media and Entertainment District

In Uptown, retail activity is occurring in interesting patterns. For one, there is the elephant in the room: the Shops at Midtown Miami. This massive destination-retail project is creating a retail hub that is sure to have a catalytic peripheral-development effect. That is to say Midtown Miami will encourage economic activity along the fringes of the project’s 56 acres. We’ll look at acquisition patterns to see what’s happening under the surface. In addition to the Shops at Midtown, there is a smattering of retail activity mostly in the form of ground level mixed use. Biscayne Boulevard is becoming the artery that is poised to stream this form of retail activity north and south in between the I-395 and I-195.

Image: Parkwest, Club Space

Parkwest

In Parkwest, retail activity is non-existent. This, in a neighborhood that is emerging as an outpost for the extremely-well-to-do. Granted, occupancy has not settled the area, but iconic towers are quickly topping off along the neighborhood’s east flank and the presence of an active 24-hour nightclub scene adds a distinguishing element to the neighborhood. There is much to consider including but not limited to the state of Overtown, plans for Museum Park, nearby development anchors, and proximity to the heart of the CBD. Retail activity in Parkwest is imminent and might follow patterns seen in a certain neighborhood across the bay. We’ll get into that later.

Image: Brickell Village looking north towards the CBD

The Central Business District

The CBD is not seeing a marked increase in new retail activity and is something of an enigma. Most of the area’s structures are so old and under utilized that reuse is questionable at best, yet there are examples of small-scale un-designated historic buildings that offer appealing reuse options for retailers. The CBD, unlike Brickell Village and even Uptown, for the most part, is lacking in new westward development. This is attributed to the dense and antiquated interior. With the exception of Met Square, there isn’t much to consider in the form of destination-retail projects, but there are many paths the CBD can take in terms of retail activity. We’ll consider the probabilities.

Image: Ground Level retail spaces at City 24 (under construction) in Uptown

What’s Next?

We will:

  • Trek through the urban Core’s areas of interest evaluating the state of retail activity in each area,
  • Look to other more established areas of the city for parallels,
  • Look at acquisition patterns surrounding new development in order to consider the peripheral effects of new construction and under-the-surface activity,
  • Consider the links between communities and how each neighborhood depends on neighboring communities,
  • Compare destination-retail versus mixed use ground level retail,
  • Identify what avenues and streets are to serve as the arteries for economic/retail activity expansion,
  • Identify the missing pieces and impediments for growth,
  • Consider the occupancy dilemma.

This is a lot of ground to cover, and it will take a few installments, but it is important to consider each of these aspects in order to materialize a short-term and long-term outlook on retail activity and urban life. In great urban centers, options abound. In Miami, cranes and questions abound. As the cranes do their work, we will examine the questions that remain: beginning with Brickell Village.

(to be continued…)

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Identifying the Signs of Urban Life: Retail Activity (Pt. I)

  1. R

    The Brickll Area, although offering the most choices right now, is far from ideal. The sidewalks are messy, broken, overrun by grass, etc. They are also not wide enough and don’t make it a very pleasant walking experience. Brickell Avenue is a disaster. There are too few pedestrian crossing and the ones that do exist are poorly marked and too fast to cross safely. It’s pathetic that Miami wants to call itself a first class city when it can’t even afford its residents the most basic of services such as pedestrian friendly and safe sidewalks.

  2. charck

    I’m so glad you’re doing this. I can’t wait for the next posts.

  3. R,
    You’re absolutely right, but if Brickell’s infrastructure is bad, then the rest of the Core is a monumental disaster. This falls into growth impediments. The truth is that when it comes to forming a community, new construction, regardless of the use, forms the necessary components, but adequate infrastructure serves as the glue that binds everything together. Currently, there is no cohesion between construction and infrastructure. This, along with parking shortcomings, presents a huge visitor attraction and retention issue.

    Charck,
    I’m glad to know that you’re interested in the rest of the report. I look forward to presenting it.

  4. FrenchyMiami

    that report sounds amazing..

  5. It’s interesting to compare Mary Brickell Village with the Shops at Midtown. The young MBV has a number of high class restaurants already while Midtown’s been going for a few months, big stores and little stores are open and busy, but is there anywhere to get a hot dog or a sandwich? Parking abound, but what about the little things?

  6. Thanks Frenchy!

    Elad, great point! The difference is incredible. In Midtown, you can buy a gas grill and a liquid plasma T.V., but can’t sit down for a deli sandwich. That’s a problem. It could be that restaurateurs are holding off until occupancy settles the area. Brickell is far more established, but shopping options don’t abound. I think most would agree that for both areas, what’s lacking won’t remain so for long. It’s still early in the game.

  7. karenandrews

    Hey – this blog seems spot on. we just moved from Newport Beach / LA and I am so aghast at the lack of lifestyle infrastructure in Miami. WHere can you get a decent meal that isn’t totally overpriced? Where is the vibe? I spent 3 hours in the design district and I felt like I was on a movie set – oh wait, a movie set would have more food and coffee. There is no urban planning here, no thought. How can people live without the essentials of life and community? We will never buy a place here until the city grows up.

    Please tell me I missed something –

  8. I had never thought about the movie set analogy. It’s great. This is not to say that things aren’t going to change. Take, for instance, South Beach. The transformation of it from the mid nineties to today seems almost miraculous. Granted, the Beach and the mainland are two wholly different entitites, but the urban core is seeing a level of construction that has far exceeded the Beach and drawn international attention. It won’t remain movie-set-like for long.

    So, in the urban core, what we’re seeing is a city emerge–occupancy hasn’t settled, retail sectors are incomplete, infrastructure and capital improvements are ongoing. It’s something of an anomoly. Regarding urban planning, Miami 21, the proposed zoning plan, is sure to foster smarter urban planning in the long run, but it’s still a draft.

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