Amid all the doom-and-gloom national news coverage of the busted urban condo market in Miami, something amazing has occurred in the retail sector of its central business district. Integra Realty Resources ranks Downtown Miami’s 5% retail vacancy rate as one of the lowest in the nation.
The Miami Downtown Development Authority counts 42 net new retail businesses opening there in 2009, with a total of 152 over the past five years. New additions of goods, services and entertainment choices range from a Publix supermarket to an Irish pub on Brickell Avenue.
How did this happen? It’s all about people: MDDA estimates that 70,000 people now call Downtown Miami home, projecting 85,000 by 2014, and are living in 70% of the 23,000 units built during the city’s condo development boom. There is also a new entrepreneurial spirit being fueled by new residents, lower rents and the prospect of Miami becoming a 24-7 city.
“Even in the midst of a recession, a new neighborhood has been created,” says Neisen Kasdin, MDDA vice chairman and a former Miami Beach mayor who supervised the Lincoln Road revitalization. “Downtown Miami is becoming an exciting place for people to go—a destination in its own right. It’s the South Beach story all over again, just a little bit different version.”
The same retail-follows-rooftops principle of suburban development applies to a condensed urban core, notes Greg Masin, a retail broker with Cushman & Wakefield. “The influx of people moving into Downtown Miami is fueling this market,” he says, “and there’s no reason to think the activity will subside anytime soon.”