South Miami’s business district may soon be reinvigorated. Federal Realty Investment Trust, Grass River Property, and Comras Company purchased Sunset Place for $110 million in 2015,, and now they now seek to transform the property into a walkable urban center where people can live, shop, eat, gather, and conveniently commute to work on the Metrorail.
Plans call for newly designed street-level retail and two residential buildings comprising some 414 units. A hotel with approximately 182-rooms also is planned.
Ownership enlisted Miami-based Zyscovich Architects to optimize the center’s function as a vitally important piece of the South Miami business district.
“We’ve been engaging our local community for the better part of a year and there is a shared sense that Sunset Place’s physical design and retail mix are out of step with the surrounding demographics,” said George Spillis, principal with Miami-based Grass River Property.
“Our team of developers, urbanists, architects and engineers has deep experience giving flawed centers second lives as thriving retail, residential and entertainment destinations — and that’s exactly what we plan to do at Sunset Place.”
The addition of residential and hotel uses will provide a significant and sustained economic benefit to South Miami’s merchants and restaurant operators by creating a built-in consumer base within walking distance to the area’s existing businesses. The hotel and residences will be located along South Dixie Highway (US1) at the center’s north end, within walking distance to the South Miami Metrorail station, the future Underline linear park, University of Miami, and South Miami Hospital.
Spillis continued, “We’ve spent our lives in South Miami. Some of us remember riding our bikes up Red Road to buy five-cent sticky buns from the Holsum Bakery. We live here; we shop here; we eat here. This is our backyard, and we’re taking the time to get our plan right. That begins with a mix of uses that create a self-sustaining neighborhood that feels and operates like it evolved organically over time.”
“By introducing new residences and a hotel, new public amenities, new green spaces for area residents, and access points for guests arriving by foot, bike, train or car, this new master plan will focus on re-connecting and integrating South Miami with Sunset Place,” added architect Bernard Zyscovich, whose firm has created master plans for the New World Symphony and SoundScape Park, Bal Harbour Shops and some of South Florida’s most successful urban districts. “The result will be a commercial and residential anchor that creates a vibrant streetscape and desirable destination for locals and visitors.”
Ownership will refresh Sunset Place’s existing retail program through revitalizing façade improvements and the introduction of exterior facing storefronts designed to increase the center’s connectivity with the surrounding neighborhood.
The center’s connectivity also will be improved through the strategic demolition of existing retail space along Red Road (SW 57th Avenue) where ownership will create a grand, public square at the intersection of San Remo and Red Road. Additional public realm improvements are proposed for US1 and Red Road which will create safer access for pedestrians, bicyclist, and transit riders.
“Our team acquired Sunset Place because we saw the potential to create South Miami’s living room — a shopping, dining and entertainment destination that’s a gathering place for the community, an economic engine, and a magnet for additional investment in the city,” added Don Briggs, executive vice president-development for Federal Realty Investment Trust.
“The Shops will not work without a true, critical mass of people living there,” said Tom Byrne, a longtime South Miami resident who owns several residential condominiums within the existing center. “Nobody knows this better than I do. Prior attempts at mixed-use failed because they lacked a substantial residential population. Creating an exciting place for people to live, eat, shop, and ride the Metrorail is an ideal fix for prior failures. Plus, creating a real neighborhood at the center with people living there will provide an economic benefit to the business district and the merchants, restaurants, and property owners within it.
“Lastly, the injection of new life into the business district will translate to a tax boost for the city’s budget that will allow it to provide great services and improve its parks without increasing taxes on residents. Everybody should love this.”
"We’ve been engaging our local community for the better part of a year and there is a shared sense that Sunset Place’s physical design and retail mix are out of step with the surrounding demographics," says George Spillis, Principal with Miami-based Grass River Property. "Our team of developers, urbanists, architects and engineers has deep experience giving flawed centers second lives as thriving retail, residential and entertainment destinations – and that’s exactly what we plan to do at Sunset Place.”
Sunset Place’s ownership already is in talks with retailers eyeing a move to the center, according to partner Michael Comras, president and CEO of The Comras Company. “Our leasing team is in contact with some of the most desirable retail and restaurant brands around the world and across South Florida, and there is mounting interest in Sunset Place given the demographics in place, the neighborhood’s urban vibe, and the track record of our team. This excitement will only grow as retailers learn about our plans and development gets underway.”
The team will continue engaging the community through meetings with business, civic, and neighborhood groups and will hold informational sessions in the coming months.
By Lee Stephens
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