Years in the making, $425M mixed-use Miami River development opens

Developer reduced the retail footprint of the 2.2M sf development, added office in 2018

River Landing, Andy Hellinger and Coralee Penabad
River Landing, Andy Hellinger and Coralee Penabad

The massive mixed-use River Landing Shops & Residences development along the Miami River opened after years in the making, while other projects in the area remain on hold.

The retail, multifamily and office River Landing project was completed earlier this year, but the owner, H&R Real Estate Investment Trust, held off on a grand opening due to the pandemic. Tenants include Hobby Lobby, Publix, Burlington, and Planet Fitness.

“We put off opening because of Covid until a time period where retailers were comfortable in the economy, and we could do it safely,” said Andy Hellinger, co-principal of Urban X Group, which developed the project.

The $425 million development at 1480 Northwest North River Drive is the largest project to be completed along the Miami River in years, and it includes a substantial amount of retail and office space. Nearly two years ago, Urban X Group, which is also led by Coralee Penabad, reduced the retail footprint and added 135,000 square feet of office space, citing a lack of new office space in the nearby Health District.

In total, the 2.2-million-square-foot development sits on more than 8 acres and has 345,000 square feet of retail, 528 apartments, more than 2,000 parking space, plus the office space.

Hellinger said the developers did not make changes to their plans for the project since March, and did not offer any long-term discounts on rents because of coronavirus.

“Twelve months from now we’re going to be through this Covid pandemic,” he said.

In Miami-Dade County, non-essential retail has been allowed to operate at a reduced capacity since May, but indoor dining was allowed to reopen only in August.

The retailers are opening on a staggered basis, Hellinger said. Hobby Lobby and Burlington opened last week, Publix is set to open on Thursday, and Chase Bank, Five Below and AT&T will open by Oct. 1. Ross Dress for Less and Planet Fitness are expected to open later this fall, according to a press release. Other tenants include TJ Maxx, Old Navy, Ficelles Bakery and Chick-Fil-A.

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The retail space is 70 percent leased, Hellinger said. Among the available space is a 25,000-square-foot restaurant that can be divided into seven restaurants. Hellinger said he recognized that coronavirus had an impact on restaurant leasing. Most restaurants struggled to survive over the past six months, and some have shut down permanently.

Miguel Pinto, broker and owner of Apex Capital Realty, who is not involved in the project, said many of the big box retail tenants signed on early. For retailers who have to report to shareholders, like Best Buy, the pandemic may have delayed or put their expansion plans on hold, Pinto said.

But stores like Hobby Lobby have been growing in recent months. Katz & Associates broker David Emihovich, who represented Hobby Lobby in its River Landing lease, arranged two more leases for the retailer in Florida, in Pembroke Pines and Panama City.

Leasing launched last month for River Landing’s Class A office tower, and the apartments will be available to move into in October. Lantower Residential, a subsidiary of River Landing owner H&R, is managing the residential component. The company is offering up to three months of free rent for select units, according to its website. Developers will often offer incentives in the lease-up period, experts say. They are also becoming increasingly common during the pandemic.

While a number of large projects have been proposed along the riverfront in recent years, few have been delivered. Developer Shahab Karmely’s One River Point, a planned two-tower luxury condo, has not been built. The Chetrit Group planned a $1 billion, multi-phased mega project that also has not come out of the ground.

River Landing marks the first Miami property for H&R REIT, a Toronto-based real estate investment trust.

The Miami River property was previously home to the Mahi Shrine Auditorium and was acquired by the developer in 2011. Records show EWM Trace filed two liens against River Landing Development LLC in August for about $256,000 of unpaid work.