Back from the dead: Sunset Place project gets South Miami’s stamp of approval

Federal Realty, Grass River and Comras will move forward two years after the project appeared dead on arrival

Rendering of Sunset Place
Rendering of Sunset Place

Two years after a redevelopment proposal for the Shops at Sunset Place died, the South Miami mall’s new owners kept their plan alive long enough to get it approved.

During a special commission meeting on Wednesday, the South Miami City Commission voted unanimously in favor of several ordinances that will allow a partnership between Federal Realty Investment Trust, Grass River Property and The Comras Company to transform the roughly half-a-million square-foot shopping center into a mixed-use site featuring a reimagined mall, a pair of apartment buildings and a hotel.

The commission’s 5-0 affirmative vote was a marked contrast from the elected body’s rejection of the proposed zoning changes in 2017 when it voted 3-2 against the project. In a written statement, Federal Realty vice president Mark Brennan said the partnership worked with Mayor Philip Stoddard and City Manager Steven Alexander to draft a new agreement that incorporates a number of resilient elements to combat climate change.

Rendering of Sunset Place

“The Commission’s unanimous vote reflects the community’s outpouring of support for revamped retail and dining, market rate housing, a hotel, and new public spaces that will help revitalize downtown South Miami and enhance connectivity with the surrounding neighborhood and nearby transit options,” Brennan said.

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The new development on the 9.7-acre property at 5701 Southwest 72nd Street would entail a 440,000-square-foot shopping center, roughly 32,000 square feet of new office space, 40 condos totaling 40,500 square feet, two apartment buildings with 414 units, a 182-room hotel, and two additional levels to the existing parking garage.

During the meeting, the city manager outlined modifications to the project that include rooftop solar panels, a white or reflective roof system, green roofs and replacing some street parking spaces with landscaping. South Miami became the first city in Florida in 2017 to require owners of new homes to install solar panels.

The developers also agreed to eliminate an underground parking garage that had been planned for phase two of the project, Alexander said, due to concerns that the garage could flood with groundwater as a result of sea level rise.

The developers agreed to fund several initiatives, as well. The city will receive $250,000 for a new streetscape along Sunset Drive, $1.5 million for pedestrian safety measures – including a possible pedestrian bridge over U.S. 1 – and an amphitheater and public plaza that can hold 500 people.

Alexander said if Sunset Place is not redeveloped, downtown South Miami will suffer with a reduction in quality stores and less desirable retailers replacing them. “Its success and energy is essential for the existence and well being of our smaller shops,” he said. “Cumulatively, our small downtown area has lost 90 restaurants, shops and other businesses since the project was formally initiated in 2016.”