Miami’s Retail Feel: Legacy v. Destination

Legacy Stock Retail; H&M in Venice – Photographed January 2012

Sense of Place

Legacy buildings (known as the legacy stock) tend to be historic structures (usually with architectural value) that are preserved and adapted from their original use to a new one, more often than not, retail. As a result, legacy retail is more typically found in older cities and widely seen in Europe and U.S cities such as NYC and Chicago.

Miami’s legacy stock is limited on the mainland but rich on the Beach–where Art Deco architecture is abundant. Back on the mainland, the Dacra-propelled Design District has considerable legacy retail potential.

Sra. Martinez, a restaurant in a 1920s-era post office in the Design District.

City Character

Mimo Boulevard District, along Biscayne Blvd. north of the I195, boasts a Miami Modern legacy stock comprised of a strip of motels and has tantalizing adaptive re-use potential. Downtown’s legacy stock cannot be overlooked but is not as architecturally distinctive as the DD and MBD. The Collins Avenue Shopping District and Lincoln Road Mall are the foremost local examples of a legacy retail. There, the City’s architectural history stands prominently in a veritable open-air museum/shopping district. Legacy buildings contribute character to the city, and their presence and preservation can have a tremendous economic benefit if adapted to retail use

Brickell’s legacy stock sliver

Placelessness

Destination retail zones are quite different from their legacy counterparts. They are big, alluring, pedestrian magnets. Mary Brickell Village is an ideal example.

Cookie-cut by an architect, a destination retail center is scarcely more than a contrived shopping mall despite, as with Mary Brickell Village, attempting to look village-like.

Brickell CitiCentre will introduce an unprecedented destination retail scale to Brickell Village. NBC News wrongly reported that Brickell CitiCentre’s retail component will be larger than Sawgrass Mills’. SGM has over 2mm sq. ft. of retail space while BCC has approx. 520k sq. ft. Seems like the report confused the project’s gross floor area (GFA) of 2.89mm sq. ft. for its retail space allocation. Still, the project will dwarf Mary Brickell Village’s 195k sg. ft. of retail space.

Destination retail like BCC and MBV says nothing of the city’s history. It’s new. It’s the show. The City is an outsider. The sense of place is brought about by store directories. However, in the Brickell area, in terms of retail frontage, there is little retail alternative beyond street level frontage in mixed use towers. The neighborhood’s legacy stock is almost nil and large vacant land parcels offer blank canvases for such type of large-scale development.

As a neighborhood, Brickell is in the making. The burgeoning street level retail scene in the mixed-use boom-era towers will invariably interact with the destination-retail activity. This urban synthesis, wholly new and absent of any legacy stock, might result in its very own unique sense of place south of the River.

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