Developers see incubation as key to North Beach retail success: panel

"It is not going to be about a national big chain or brand"

Rendering of North Beach development (Credit: Dover, Kohl & Partners)
Rendering of North Beach development (Credit: Dover, Kohl & Partners)

To reimagine retail in North Beach’s Ocean Terrace, developers are looking to projects doubling as business incubators that they hope will seed the commercial landscape in Miami’s most popular neighborhoods.

“We have started talking about what we want it to feel like,” said Sandor Scher, co-founder of Claro Development, which is redeveloping 2.2 acres in historic Ocean Terrace, at a Tuesday conference hosted by Bisnow on emerging neighborhoods. “Obviously, we want a lot of quality retailers that is seen in Sunset Harbor and Wynwood today.”

Scher has teamed with Della Heiman, CEO and founder of the Wynwood Yard, who is developing a similar outdoor food, cocktail and event space called North Beach Yard.

“It is not going to be about a national big chain or brand, but rather like people who came out of the Yard, have their proof of concept and have shown they can run a business,” Scher said.

Heiman, who also participated in the discussion, wants North Beach Yard to serve as an incubator for entrepreneurial concepts.

“We are going to support them with mentorship, infrastructure and operational assistance as they get up and running,” she said. “We are figuring out how our team can partner with developers and landlords so we can help these entrepreneurs transition into a permanent space.”

Over the past 18 months, city officials and residents have signed off on a slew of changes in North Beach to allow for major redevelopment to take place in the Ocean Terrace historic district.

In June 2016, the city commission authorized a new overlay district allowing Claro to build a 235-foot condominium on Ocean Terrace between 73rd and 75th streets, as well as a 125-foot hotel on the strip. Scher agreed to incorporate extensive setbacks in his project and preserve 11 architecturally significant structures on Ocean Terrace.

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In July of this year, commissioners approved waivers for private uses on largely vacant spaces between 79th Street to 87th Street for the North Beach Yard project.

And in October, 59 percent of Miami Beach voters approved a rezoning of a 10-square-block area between Indian Creek Drive and Collins Avenue to increase the average density, or the floor area ratio, by 50 percent and to raise the maximum heights to 125 feet.

Other developers invited to speak at the Bisnow conference explained what has drawn them to up-and-coming areas in Miami’s urban core.

Avra Jain — who, along with Bob Zangrillo of Dragon Capital, bought a $5 million minority stake in a prime Miami River redevelopment site in June — called land along the city’s commercial waterway a “gem in the rough.”

“People don’t realize how much the Miami River Commission and the city have done to bring walkability to the river,” she said. “There is a greenway that goes from Spring Gardens to downtown [along the Miami River]. You can practically take a boat to Miami International Airport.”

Carlos Fausto Miranda, principal of Fausto Commercial Realty Consultants, talked about how interest in redeveloping properties in Allapattah should be viewed as complementary to the existing residential, industrial and retail stock in the neighborhood.

“Allapattah is a holistic, functioning neighborhood, and it has been for 50 to 60 years,” Miranda said. “It has a very strong retail base that serves the local community and remains Miami’s only true industrial neighborhood that is a massive engine of employment. And it has a strong housing base that serves that industrial sector.”