Coconut Grove’s rebirth depends on retail, housing: panel

CocoWalk, at 3015 Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove
CocoWalk, at 3015 Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove

Developer Michael Comras wants to bring tenants to CocoWalk that will appeal to the affluent homeowners in the neighborhood, he said at a real estate panel on Thursday. 

“Now is the time to cater to the people that live there,” Comras said. “By taking it apart, putting it back together and rebranding [CocoWalk] we will create a nice mix of uses that will bring Grove residents back.”

On Thursday evening, Comras joined Miami architect and Coconut Grover property owner Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Grove Bay Investment Group principal Giraldo “Jay” Leyva Jr. for a panel discussion called “Rebirth of Coconut Grove,” sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers. About 100 real estate professionals attended the panel at the Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami.

In May, Comras partnered with Maryland-based Federal Realty Investment Trust and Grass River Property to purchase the outdoor shopping complex in a deal valued at $87.5 million. While Comras did not disclose which retailers are being courted, he said CocoWalk will pursue the type of tenants that have signed leases at the Engle Building on the corner of Main Highway and McFarlane Road. Main Highway Partners, an entity controlled by Fort-Brescia that owns the Engle Building, is bringing in Harry’s Pizzeria, Panther Coffee, and clothing store Kit and Ace. CocoWalk’s current tenants include Gap, Cheesecake Factory, Fat Tuesday’s and Cinepolis Theaters.

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When it first opened, “CocoWalk was on the cutting edge of retail and entertainment,” Comras said. “It was really an amazing project. Today it is tired. The tenants don’t fit in.”

Fort-Brescia said office tenants such as technology company Sapient and advertising firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky are giving the Grove new life. “There is a resurgence of business because of office users,” Fort-Brescia said. “That means restaurants and shops have day-time consumers it gives them longer cycle of life. However residents are the core of any retail success.”

He said Coconut Grove could use more rental housing for young professionals. “I’ve had members of my staff tell me if they go see an apartment and don’t decide on the spot, it’s gone the same day,” Fort-Brescia said.