Edens Plans More Shopping Center Spending
By Scott Blake
Even in a place like South Beach, there’s a market for so-called "big box" retailers.
That was the conclusion of shopping center investment firm Edens when it spent an undisclosed amount to buy the Fifth & Alton retail complex at the beachside end of the MacArthur Causeway.
The hulking shopping center, which had a 2012 market value of just under $40 million, is an anomaly in South Beach, known more for trendy upscale boutiques. Fifth & Alton is one of the beachside’s few large shopping centers, anchored by national chains commonly found in middle-American suburbs: Best Buy, Staples, Publix, TJ Maxx and Ross Dress for Less.
However, Edens has been slow to make a slew of improvements it is planning for Fifth & Alton since the purchase about six months ago.
In an interview this week, however, Edens President and Chief Investment Officer Jodie McLean said the company is still in the planning stages for Fifth & Alton, but changes are just a matter of time — and the company isn’t stopping there.
Ms. McLean said Edens, which also operates and manages other shopping centers, is bringing in new stores and making structural changes at its other shopping centers in the Miami area and Southeast Florida — all in line with the firm’s philosophy of making its properties more than just shopping centers — reworking them as "community gathering places."
And Miami — along with Atlanta, Boston, New York and Washington, DC — is one of Edens’ favorite markets.
"Miami is a gateway city," Ms. McLean explained. "There’s diversification of its economic base. It has a solid underpinning of international financial [strength] and also a tourist base that brings in disposable income on a regular basis."
Among its local shopping centers, the company has brought in an upscale Latin American-based bicycle store at Biscayne Commons at 14777 Biscayne Blvd. in North Miami and eventually plans to bring in a "signature" restaurant there.
At the Market on University retail center in Plantation, Edens plans to demolish a building and replace it with a new one featuring retail space on the ground floor with an LA Fitness gym above it.
And at Union Planters Plaza in Fort Lauderdale, the company is expanding the center and redeveloping a building.
But among its 13 properties in South Florida, Fifth & Alton was the most expensive and highest-profile acquisition. So far, the only change there has been the exit of Brooklyn Water Bagel from one of the smaller retail spaces. The goal is to replace it with a business more geared to attracting people for "the evening experience," Ms. McLean said.
She said it probably will be another four to six months before significant changes begin appearing at Fifth & Alton.
Future changes will include making stores more visible and accessible through Fifth & Alton’s 1,074-space garage, which is built into the six-level complex. Other changes will focus on the south side of the building, where smaller sidewalk-accessible retailers are clustered.
The building is relatively new. A project of Berkowitz Development Group, Fifth & Alton opened in 2009. Edens acquired it in December from affiliates of Robert and Alan Potamkin and Jeff Berkowitz.
Overall, Fifth & Alton — located at 1101 Fifth St. — has nearly 180,000 square feet of retail space.
Columbia, SC-based Edens has about 110 properties up and down the US East Coast with a total value of about $3.5 billion, according to Ms. McLean. Among the company’s marquee properties are Lenox Marketplace in Atlanta, Mosaic outside Washington, DC, and South Bay Center in Boston.
The firm has been making a push into Miami. In the past two to three years, the company has spent nearly $300 million acquiring six Miami area properties, with Fifth & Alton being the fourth purchase in 2012 alone.
"It really was an investment cycle more than anything," Ms. McLean said about the flurry of purchases.
In addition to Fifth & Alton and Biscayne Commons, Edens last year bought Hialeah Mercado at 1529 to 1599 W 49th St. in Hialeah; and Arena Shops at 14770 Biscayne Blvd. in North Miami Beach.
Still, Edens is continuing to look for more assets in Greater Miami to possibly buy in the future.
"We’re looking to focus on the Miami area," she said.
Another focus of the firm, she said, is developing shopping centers that give consumers different reasons to visit, perhaps even several times a week. One time, it could be for groceries; another time it could be for clothes; and another time to eat out or join in on some kind of activity.
"These are places," she said, "where the consumer desires to come back."To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.