Finally, a grocery store for Downtown Miami?

Downtowners know that their neighborhood has lacked a large grocery store for quite some time. (The Brickell Avenue area, on the other hand, has three Publixes. Three?)

Now, with the inflow of new residents taking advantage of discounted condo prices, the need for a big grocery store within Downtown is greater than ever. Check out this South Florida Business Journal article to learn how the Miami Downtown Development Authority is getting the ball rolling.  And visit the DDA’s website for more information on the initiatives the DDA is taking to fuel Downtown’s growth and development.
Miami DDA starts effort to lure supermarket
South Florida Business Journal – by Oscar Pedro Musibay

The Miami Downtown Development Authorityhas launched a new initiative to lure a national supermarket to the city’s downtown area.

The DDA has wanted a grocery store there since the deal for Whole Foods Market to open in the Metropolitan Miami project collapsed in late 2008. The organization waited for the market to deliver the grocery goods, but that didn’t happen.

Now, it has taken it upon itself to reach out to chains that might be interested, Miami DDA Vice Chairman Neisen Kasdin said. The mayor of Miami Beach during the rise of Art Deco as a tourist vehicle, he facilitated the arrival of national retailers to the once-moribund Lincoln Road pedestrian mall.

“There is a pattern. I have experienced it before in South Beach and seen it in other neighborhoods,” Kasdin said. “It always starts with local independent retailers. And when they have proven a market exists, the national retailers follow. And that’s going to be what happens in downtown Miami.”

Javier Betancourt, chief planner on the DDA’s newly approved master plan, would not disclose the names of the retailers the agency is courting. He did include the goal as part of the master plan, which was approved by the DDA board on Oct. 16.

According to the master plan, the goal of attracting “catalytic national retailers” is part of its overall mission to enhance the city’s position as the “business and cultural epicenter of the Americas.” The master plan lists Barnes & Noble, Target and Crate & Barrel as examples of retailers that might work in urban formats.

The expectation is that the location of the retailers will create a domino affect, attracting more business and residents. The master plan says DDA officials want to have a grocery store downtown within five years.

Kasdin said demand is already there for a market to operate. Three Publix Super Markets are already operating within the Brickell Avenue area, which is more densely populated than downtown.

The DDA is a quasi-public agency of the city of Miami that collects its own taxes.

The DDA expects the downtown population to continue grow from the Omni neighborhood, where the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is located, to the Brickell Avenue area. The population in the DDA district grew from 20,000 in 2000 to 31,000 in 2008, according to the U.S. Census.

Interest from potential businesses
Josie Correa, who heads the Downtown Miami Partnership, a group that supports downtown business growth, said a grocery store doesn’t necessarily need a well-established retail cluster to jump into the market. The retail that is now looking to move into the downtown district serves a niche. She said she has seen interest from people who want to open all kinds of new businesses, including a gay bar and dog service shops.

“What we are getting a lot of are restaurants that are not only here during the day to deal with those of us who work here, but they are trying to stay open later at night and on the weekends,” she said.

Part of the reason they reach out to the Downtown Miami Partnership is that the nonprofit provides up to $50,000 to eligible businesses seeking to open in the central business district. Business operators must match Downtown Miami Partnership’s money.

Two Girls and a Cupcake is one of the businesses already willing to take a chance on downtown. The cupcake bakery, which opened this month near Bank of America at International Place on the north side of the Miami River, has had steady foot traffic.

“People are going by, smelling the deliciousness and going in to get a cupcake – and they are $2 or $3,” Correa said. “They aren’t cheap. So the restaurants that are expanding are doing very well.”