Village of Merrick Park brings new dimension to Coral Gables
By Sherri C. Ranta
The Village of Merrick Park will open Friday with 92% of its 800,000 square feet of retail space leased and an offering of national retailers including anchors Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom and several shops branded by international designers.
About 70% of the 115 stores and restaurants should open this week, while others, such as Tiffany & Co. and Elemis Day Spa, will open later, said Bob Rubenkonig, Rouse Co. national director of communications. Jeweler and specialty retailer Tiffany this month announced plans to lease 5,600 square feet but does not plan to open until spring.
Acknowledging the project's high-end retailers, he stressed the importance and timeliness of the project as a whole, given the slow economy and flat nature of the retail sector.
"I think when you look at it in totality, the leasing, the merchandising mix - it's extraordinary really," Mr. Rubenkonig said. "Many of the retailers are opening for the first time in Florida and there are those retailers who chose Village of Merrick Park as their American debut."
Rouse officials forecast the Village of Merrick Park, a mixed-use development with office and residential components, will produce about $400 million in retail sales per year and create 2,500 to 3,000 permanent jobs.
The Village of Merrick Park is on 20 acres at Ponce de Leon Boulevard at San Lorenzo Avenue. Its 125,000-square-foot office component is to open this fall and residential apartments will open next summer, Rouse officials said.
Mr. Rubenkonig said retail tenants recognized the "amazing business climate" and potential in Coral Gables and South Florida. The project, he said, will appeal to residents and to many of the 10 million visitors to Miami-Dade County each year.
"The project has international appeal, I think Latin America consumers who know quality goods and retailing will fall in love with it."
Followers of international designers, Mr. Rubenkonig said, will recognize many of the exclusive shops such as the South Florida debut of Jimmy Choo for footwear; Sonia Rykiel, a French designer of women's wear; and Burberry, a British brand recognized worldwide for its signature trench coat.
Retailers opening their first stores in the US, he said, include Ann Gish, designer of home fabrics; Artefacto, a Brazilian fine-furniture maker; Baldessarini, European men's clothing line and division of Hugo Boss; Canali, Italian men's clothing; Carolina Herrera, women's clothing; Cheeky, Argentinian children's clothing; and Schedoni, Italian leather crafters.
Other Village of Merrick Park retailers such as Ann Taylor, Gucci, Tiffany and others, he said, are hallmarks of high-end shopping.
Rouse representatives would not discuss lease terms. In general, the retail leases run from five to 20 years. Five-year leases, industry officials say, make good sense for retailers and landlords
Leases for Nordstrom, with 200,00 square feet, and Neiman Marcus, with 135,000 square feet and another 30,000 available for expansion, Mr. Rubenkonig said, are longer than the standard five years.
"That says a lot about Neiman Marcus's belief in the community if they have already built in expansion square footage," he said.
The expansion space is a courtyard behind the store.
The anchors, he said, are the largest tenants in the Village of Merrick Park, followed by Artefacto, the Brazilian furniture retailer with up to 20,000 square feet.
A local entry, Mr. Rubenkonig said, is Mundo, a second restaurant by Coral Gables chef Norman Van Aken. Recognized by The New York Times for his new world cuisine, Mr. Van Aken's first restaurant, Norman's, is very popular, Mr. Rubenkonig said.
At least six Village of Merrick Park tenants - Neiman Marcus, Ann Taylor, A Pea in the Pod, Cache, Gucci and Tiffany - also have locations in the Bal Harbour Shops. Originally, Bal Harbour was not allowing tenants to plan second locations at Merrick Park because of radius restrictions in their contracts. But the two shopping centers came to an agreement after Rouse challenged Bal Harbour Shops in a federal antitrust lawsuit.
Under 20-year terms announced in March, Bal Harbour Shops agreed that radius clauses would not apply to the Village of Merrick Park and Rouse officials agreed to reciprocate.
Bal Harbour Shops Director of Marketing Cheryl Stephenson said their mall continues to lead the industry in average sales per square foot. A recent Women's Wear Daily survey, she said, ranked Bal Harbour Shops as the most productive shopping center in the US, generating $1,350 per square foot, three times the nation's average.
A trade publication for retailers, Women's Wear Daily, attributed revenues to the most successful malls to some shared characteristics, she said.
"They are popular tourism destinations, filled with high-end retailers who have a captive audience and/or are located in a densely populated area," the publication reported.
"Given the proliferation of over 45,000 malls nationwide," Ms. Stephenson said, "it is extraordinary that three Miami-Dade shopping centers made this coveted top 15 list with Bal Harbour leading the way, Dadeland ranking 10th with $690 sales per square foot and Aventura Mall 12th with $680 sales per square foot."
The average US mall achieves sales of about $340 a square foot a year, she said.
"We have three retailers in one region making the list," she said. "I think that means there is a lot of room for growth."