Wal-Mart has contracts on two sites in Miami Gardens
By Sherri C. Ranta
Two new Wal-Mart stores in Miami Gardens could lure more retail development to northwestern Miami-Dade County, home to Pro Player Stadium, Calder Race Course, Florida Memorial College and St. Thomas University.
"Wal-Mart brings 10,000 to 15,000 shoppers to their stores weekly. Wherever you find Wal-Mart, you'll find a lot of retailers will follow," said Jeremy Larkin, president of NAI Miami, a real estate firm specializing in commercial, retail and office markets.
"If anyone wants decent retail, they have to leave the area and go west to Miami Lakes or east to Aventura - which is a shame," he said. "There's a tremendous amount of spending power in this community that any retailers that open locally will instantly benefit from."
About 100,000 people live in the city incorporated in May bounded by Broward County to the north, Northwest 151st Street to the south, North Miami Avenue/Northeast Second Avenue to the east and Northwest 47th and 57th avenues to the west. Average household income, Mr. Larkin said, is about $50,000.
Wal-Mart officials have signed contracts for two sites in the area, Mr. Larkin said - 30 acres owned by the Morton family across from Pro Player Stadium and 40 acres owned by the Victor Posner estate at the Golden Glades Interchange, where Florida's Turnpike, Interstate 95 and the Palmetto Expressway converge. The sites are about 3 miles apart.
"I personally believe they will close on one site," Mr. Larkin said, "and let the other one go, although Wal-Mart says they will develop two sites."
Wal-Mart, the nation's largest discount retailer, plans to build 203,000-square-foot super centers at both sites, said Daphne Moore, the company's director of community affairs.
"Given the volume our stores do in Florida, we have been working as close as 2 miles apart. The result of not having enough stores is overwhelming the existing operations," she said.
Preliminary plans call for opening at the end of next year at the site near Pro Player, Ms. Moore said. She said the company plans to open near the Golden Glades in 2006. The Fort Walton, AR, company's super centers typically employ about 450.
"I think what is forgotten," Ms. Moore said, "when thinking of operations is the grocery component, an important part of the super-center concept. Look at grocers in your market. They will be just as close or even closer."
Support for the Golden Glades site comes from area businessman Terry Cuson, president of Chamber Services Inc., a management company for several Miami-Dade chambers of commerce.
"It's a good fit there," he said. "There's a bowling alley there, a boat store, car dealers. It fits there. What on earth is a Wal-Mart doing adjacent to Pro Player Stadium? It doesn't make sense."
Miami-Dade businessman Joe Benner, who represents the family selling the site near Pro Player, said Wal-Mart is pursuing permits from the county and city.
The Miami Gardens City Commission is scheduled to vote April 7 to zone about 5.1 acres at the site, he said. The rest of the acreage is zoned for business.
"Wal-Mart is far ahead on our parcel," Mr. Benner said. "It is possible that they could close at the end of the year."
Mr. Benner represented the Morton family when they donated 130 acres to Miami-Dade County for construction of the stadium. The family still owns 60 acres at the site where Wal-Mart plans to build, Mr. Benner said. The land, zoned for retail and office, is for sale.
Wal-Mart officials signed a contract for the land at the Golden Glades Interchange in October with clauses for extensions until May 2005, said listing agent Larry Stockton of Abood Wood-Fay Real Estate Group. Court records show the purchase price is about $14 million.
"This has always been such a fabulous destination because of the highways. They could possibly do a combined Wal-mart/Sam's Club on our site. It's big enough for something like that," he said.
Entrepreneur Willie Robinson, former president of Florida Memorial College in Miami Gardens, opened a Denny's restaurant across from Pro Player Stadium in August. The addition of Wal-Mart to the area would add badly needed jobs, Mr. Robinson said.
"I'm delighted they have plans to bring commercial opportunity to the community - anything that will bring stability and job opportunities and will add to the already-existing community uplift activities."
When he opened the restaurant, Mr. Robinson said, lines of people seeking job applications formed around the building. "It's was painful to see," he said.
A 40,000-square-foot shopping center was scheduled for development next to the Denny's site, Mr. Larkin said, but the deal fell through. He said the Opa-locka Community Development Corp. is interested in buying the site. City officials would not comment.
Two other Wal-Mart stores are open or scheduled to open nearby. Wal-Mart is building a superstore at the 163rd Street Mall, Mr. Cuson said. Workers tore down half the vacant mall to make way for the store, scheduled to open next year.
A super center is under construction at 5851 NW 177th Street in Hialeah, Ms. Moore said, and is scheduled to open this summer.