Airport launches retail overhaul to renovate, change management at more than 40 shops at Miami International
By Paola Iuspa
Miami-Dade aviation officials are taking proposals for one bidder to operate four stores soon to be vacated at Miami International Airport, while they are writing criteria for a developer to acquire 40 more shops.
The way to find airport retailers has been a battleground between the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and county manager, though both say they want to upgrade the Miami International's retail area, criticized as dingy and dated.
The deadline to bid on the first shops is Dec. 4, said Assistant Aviation Director Mayra Bustamante. The spaces total 3,210 square feet.
The aviation department began the bidding process last week and plans a Nov. 7 workshop for participants. Once the department picks the best offer and the county commission approves, the new retailer will have up to four months to re-open four remodeled spaces.
Aviation officials opened the four sites to bidding in June as part of a six-shop package but got successful responses for just two stores, Ms. Bustamante said. BFC Airport Stores won the bid to sell scents and leather products, said Lenora Allen-Johnson, heading the county's contracts administration office. The commission will discuss an agreement with BFC on Nov. 19, Ms. Bustamante said.
To spiff up more of the airport's retail areas, aviation officials hope to prepare a request for proposals by late November for a developer to obtain 40 specialty and newsstand units. The winning bidder won't be allowed to operate shops but can strike concession agreements with other operators.
"This format," said County Manager Steve Shiver, "could enable a seasoned airport concessions management firm to operate the concessions."
The county manager's support of Aviation Director Angela Gittens' year-old plan to bring new concepts and retailers to the now gloomy and outdated retail at the airport's central terminal signals a change of heart for Mr. Shiver.
Until recently he had opposed bidding for the four retail spaces separately from 40 other specialty retail and newsstand units of national, international and local brands.
Now, Mr. Shiver has authorized the department to put out invitations to bid for four retail spaces totaling 3,210 square feet assigned for sunglasses, apparel and music shops, said Ms. Bustamante.
Those bids are due Dec. 4 and she said the selected retail operator would have to redesign the four stores and re-open within four months.
"We are working on a very aggressive timeline," Mr. Shiver said Friday.
At the same time, aviation officials are rushing to complete by late November criteria to select a master developer who would take over 40 other existing retail spaces, refashion them and recruit retail operators for each.
While not allowed to operate any space, the developer would handle leasing, marketing, sub-tenant relations and be the liaison between the aviation department and the sub-tenants. The commission could award the contract to the successful bidder by March, a county document said.
A month ago the county manager put together a review committee of local and national retail and aviation consultants to advise whether including the 44 shops in one package was a smarter move. The committee's review was completed two weeks ago and it recommended consolidating the two bids, as Mr. Shiver previously proposed.
But the manager ignored the consultants' recommendation in the end and has endorsed Ms. Gittens' original plan of two separate bids in an effort to speed up the process. Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas in late August backed Ms. Gittens' proposal.
Trying to invigorate the rest of the retail areas in the central terminal, the aviation department is working on a request for proposals for 40 other spaces. These bidders will have to come up with their own designs but closely follow the department's criteria.
Mr. Shiver said Friday he changed his mind to prevent causing delays in a process that has been in the making for almost a year.
"While I strongly agree that the four locations should be included in the larger Central Terminal retail program to ensure consistency and to enhance the financial viability of the request for proposals," he wrote in an Oct. 22 memo to commissioners, "we have already taken steps to issue the invitation to bid for these locations. I am concerned that changing our course of action at this point will further confuse potential respondents."
He said this retail program will serve as a model to help look for retailers to fill the planned retail spaces at the now-under-construction North and South Terminals. Both are part of an ongoing $4.8 billion expansion and modernization program at Miami International Airport.
Another goal of the central terminal retail program is to remove the aviation department from the retail management business. Currently, aviation officials manage the shops and pay a flat fee plus commission to retail operators. The new plan will call for retail operators and the master developer to run the business and pay the county a percentage of gross sales.