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CocoWalk's New Owners Buy Sunset Place, Every Teen's Favorite Mall, for $110 Million

Oct. 1, 2015

If you have a soft spot for failing outdoor shopping and entertainment complexes in South Miami-Dade, Federal Realty Investment Trust is your savior. After acquiring a majority stake in Coconut Grove's CocoWalk earlier this year, Federal has now traveled a bit farther down South Dixie Highway and snapped up South Miami's Shops at Sunset Place too.

Federal — along with the local firms Grass River Property and the Comras Company — paid $110.2 million to acquire a majority 85 percent stake in the mall, according to the Real Deal. That's about $22 million more than the $87.5 million selling price of CocoWalk.

The seller is major mall player Simon Properties. Simon acquired the property, then an upscale shopping mall called the Bakery Center, in 1995 for $11.5 million, tore it down, and built Sunset Place by 1999.

The mall is notably youth-focused, and one has to figure that Simon hoped to attract University of Miami students. It's a relatively short walk from campus, and UM students certainly do go there out of convenience, but it's not exactly a Hurricane hot spot. Instead, it's infamous for attracting a younger demographic: middle- and high-school students.

I've always referred to it as the place where teenage clichés go to die. I've been to a lot of malls in my life, but I've never seen a place where one can so easily spot all the different stereotypical cliques of kids mingling around together in their self-designated areas.

However, the customer mix hasn't been as troubling to the bottom line as much lately as the tenant mix.

The northern end of the mall is basically a ghost town. Problems began when the Virgin Megastore, a marquee tenant, closed in 2008. A home store that replaced it failed to have staying power, and that area is now office space. Niketown and Urban Outfitters are gone too, and neither space has found a permanent replacement. In fact, there's a temporary Halloween costume shop in the old Urban Outfitters location.

Which is weird, because the area around Sunset Place, notably the main strip of Sunset Drive, is thriving.

Federal thinks its a great opportunity to turn things around. In a news release and interviews with the Miami Herald, the new owners seem to want to create a new identity for the mall and bring it more in line with the surrounding area by opening more cafés and fashion pop-up shops. Redevelopments and renovations might also be in store. Sounds like they want to attract more of the affluent people who live in the ritzy surrounding neighborhoods and fewer teens whose moms drive them 30 minutes from Kendall so they can meet their Snapchat friends.

“As Miami becomes an increasingly urban and dense market, walkable, authentic neighborhoods like Coconut Grove and South Miami are becoming increasingly attractive destinations to live, work, shop, dine, and be entertained,” Dawn Becker, executive vice president of Federal Realty’s mixed-use division, said in a statement. “Like CocoWalk, Sunset Place presents a compelling opportunity to create value through integrating it with the vibrant streets that border the property, adding new tenants and delivering a mix of uses that meet the demand of the affluent, year-round communities it serves.”

“The Shops at Sunset Place was always envisioned to provide a pedestrian-friendly, streetscape environment, as an extension of South Miami’s 'Main Street' Sunset Drive,” added Michael Comras, CEO of the Comras Company. “With the right vision, balanced approach, and creative thinking, The Shops will complement the area’s popular restaurants, cafés, and boutiques while becoming a vital retail anchor that caters to the locals and surrounding communities."

By Kyle Munzenrieder

Read more at miaminewtimes.com.