To fill vacant stores, Lincoln Road seeks pop-up businesses
Cultural institutions and new retail shops may find temporary homes on Lincoln Road this winter, as the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District is hoping to bring in a series of pop-ups to boost business and fill vacancies.
The improvement district’s executive committee has unanimously voted to support and promote pop-ups during the upcoming season.
“We’re looking to work with local cultural organizations that may want a space on Lincoln Road during the holidays,” Timothy Schmand, the committee’s executive director, told Miami Today last week. Additionally, he said, the committee would like to work with retailers, including clicks-to-bricks stores that operate primarily online and want to try out a physical space.
According to Mr. Schmand, site occupancy on Lincoln Road is currently around 74%.
“We have empty storefronts,” improvement district Vice President Lyle Stern told the committee Aug. 20, “(and) I think we have to use the opportunity right now to fill every single vacancy we can on Lincoln Road this year.”
“We as a group,” he continued, “should encourage all of our owners to make (vacancies) available for appropriate – and we’ll have to define appropriate – vendors to come to Lincoln Road and occupy this space subject to some conditions.”
The committee would have to discuss these conditions, Mr. Stern said, which could include requiring a security deposit or insurance policy.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mindy McIlroy, committee treasurer and president of real estate firm Terranova. “Terranova has done a lot of work on this already – we have been actively soliciting for fashion boutiques for our vacancies to fill our spaces from October through January. Just to your point, we want to have a very active holiday shopping season.”
Retailers in the fashion industry, she added, may have a lot of inventory as few people shopped for spring and summer styles this year.
Indeed, Terranova’s founder and Chairman Stephen Bittel told Miami Today that the corporation plans to target local and regional retailers and is already communicating with two possible short-term tenants: a plant store and a vintage boutique.
To boost business and bring people back to the street, he continued, Terranova is willing to be “uniquely flexible” when it comes to rent. At the height of business, Mr. Bittel said, rental rates were in the $300s per square foot per month. Now, he said, these rents are in the $200s, and for short-term rentals his company is talking to some tenants about making rent “the cost of occupancy plus a percentage of sales.”
“All the owners are very focused on pushing occupancy and filling up our storefronts to provide the best opportunities for our guests,” he said, “and that strategy means we need to get those windows full. We are (willing) to sacrifice some near-term revenue to enhance the overall experience so that we can return to the strength that the street previously had.”
Mel Schlesser, a member of the committee, said the improvement district would need to be mindful of the City of Miami Beach’s policies. “If we don’t have significant support from the city to allow these pop-ups to move forward expeditiously,” he said, “we’re going to be wasting our time.”
However, Ms. McIlroy noted that policies already address this concern. “There is a pop-up program in place already that the city has initiated,” she said, “75% of what you just spoke about is already completed.”
The pop-up process, Mr. Schmand said at the committee meeting, “is a far more expedited process than the traditional process.” “I used it successfully a couple of times,” he said.
Steve Gombinski, the committee’s president, said that while Lincoln Road’s vacancies during Covid are not a unique problem, the improvement district could hopefully offer a unique solution.
“We want to help the community,” he said. “We want to welcome everybody. We want art galleries, we want retail (and) other pop-ups. (We could) find out if there are restaurant spaces available where innovative chefs could come in for a short period of time.”
The committee, Mr. Gombinski continued, should ask landlords what type of tenants they’re looking for and put together an inventory that would allow them to easily match interested tenants with open spaces.
The district wants to know the “wants, needs and desires,” of possible tenants, Mr. Schmand told Miami Today, so that it can come to an agreement that is beneficial for everybody.
Lincoln Road is not alone in seeking opportunities to increase business and promote cultural institutions as the year continues. Last week, Miami Today reported that Coral Gables city commissioners unanimously approved the installation of four new murals on Miracle Mile with the goal of stimulating the economy.