Until now, downtown Miami hasn’t necessarily been a prime destination for dining or shopping. Flanked by Brickell and Wynwood/the Design District, downtowners have always sought refuge in other, trendier neighborhoods to satisfy their entertainment needs. However, change is afoot.
Welcome to the future home of the Miami Worldcenter, one of the most significant projects to date for the neighborhood and, some say, the city. MWC will breathe life into an area of downtown that for years was desolate and uninviting. It promises to bring foodies and shopaholics alike a new reason to rejoice.
Inspired by the iconic Lincoln Road, this open-air shopping area and lifestyle center will feature cafes, restaurants, shopping boutiques, and even a public plaza. The retail space alone encompasses a whopping 300,000 sq. feet. Nitin Motwani, one of the managing principals of this project, noted that MWC will serve as the zeitgeist of downtown. It will be the place where friends meet up for a drink before a game, families go for strolls and get a bite to eat, girlfriends spend a day of shopping and residents enjoy the amenities available to them including a pet-friendly dog track. Mr. Motwani is confident that this mixed-use development will deliver not just entertainment, a superlative dining and retail experience, but will also offer a chance for people to feel a sense of belonging and community.
There is little information given on the list of retailers that will be gracing the available space. We are being told that unlike the brand/retail mix available at Brickell City Center and the Design District, MWC will bring in retailers with more mass appeal and a strong customer following. We also learned that 40% of the 300,000 square feet of space available will be dedicated to food and beverage operations. As suitable as this sounds, does it also mean that residents might have to deal with the all-familiar noise nuisance issues that downtowners have been plagued by for years?
Furthermore, the much-awaited arrival of Bloomingdales is, unfortunately, a no-go for now. What will take its place? Who will be the anchor tenants? A Park West neighborhood resident expressed his disappointment at the news and also his concern over the quality/type of retailers to follow. However, with retail developers like Forbes Company and Taubman at the helm, our expectations are high.
As we digest this enormous investment in our community, an obvious question comes to mind. In this fast-changing landscape of brick-and-mortar retail closings and the nearby competition that MWC will face from Brickell City Center and the Miami Design District, is it a fool’s errand to focus on retail? Can the mercurial crowds, full-time residents, tourists and commuting workforce support more retail and entertainment venues?
The answer is complex. Outdoor-oriented lifestyle centers are the way of the future and thriving in today’s market. Open-air shopping integrates natural elements such as greenery, fountains and fresh air, all of which play a vital role in the customers’ moods and shopping patterns. These centers deliver an experience far superior to online shopping and more exciting than what an enclosed mall offers. Moreover, food halls are wildly popular and trending in major cities across the US. They provide an opportunity to interact, stimulate, and experiment in ways beyond that which is offered by more traditional mall dining. Today’s retail ecosystem is no longer about formulaic retailing and more about reinvention and supercharged consumer expectations. If MWC checks all of these boxes success is foreseeable.