MAY 5, 2015 • What to do about CocoWalk? That’s a problem its fifth owners in 18 years must figure out now. The Coconut Grove shopping mall sold yesterday for $87.5 million. The buyers are led by Maryland-based Federal Realty Investment Trust, which has an 80 percent stake, and was bought from PMAT Real Estate Investments. PMAT had purchased the property in 2006 at the height of the last real-estate boom for $87 million.
Opened in 1990 in the then-artsy Grove, CocoWalk originally was a success, but it soon became a symbol of what happens when developers and businesses get a little too starry-eyed and lose touch with a neighborhood’s original character. Today the center is a collection of tourist-friendly chain shops and restaurants that longtime locals view with disdain. Tenants include Gap, Fat Tuesday, Cheesecake Factory, Starbucks, and Victoria’s Secret. According to the Miami Herald, the mall has a 20 percent vacancy rate, almost unheard of in other parts of Miami as the retail market continues to explode. But a Cinépolis movie theater, which shows a mix of Hollywood hits and indie fare, has proven to be a success in recent years.
From the news release, it seems Federal plans to help integrate the property back into the neighborhood.
“Partnering with neighborhood experts, we see significant opportunity to transform and remerchandise a property at the center of Miami’s most authentic district,” Jim Taylor, the company’s executive vice president, said in the statement.
“Local, regional, and national retailers and restaurateurs are increasingly seeking walkable environments where they can connect year-round and throughout the day with their customers. Their enthusiasm for CocoWalk’s location will drive a powerful merchandising mix that captures the Grove’s vibe,” added minority equity partner Michael Comras.
A renovation is planned, though no details are available.
However, the Grove is undergoing a bit of a resurgence. Hip local establishments like Panther Coffee and Harry’s Pizzeria are slated to move into the neighborhood, plans are still underway to reopen the historic Coconut Grove Playhouse, and starchitects like Bjarke Ingels and Rem Koolhaas are behind the designs for new residential towers.
In other words, it seems like the new owners certainly want a piece of the new Grove and hope to find a way to make the out-of-place CocoWalk fit the neighborhood’s reemerging character.