By Ben Johnson. As Seen in ISCS’s Commerce + Communities Today.
Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road shopping and dining district needed a jolt, and not just from the pandemic. The nearby Miami Beach Convention Center reopened in 2018 after three years of redevelopment, and local retailers were feeling the disruption. “We went to the city and urged them to have a streamlined licensing process so we could get short-term tenants open to keep those stores full,” said Stephen Bittel, founder and chairman of Terranova, which has a long history as an owner of retail properties in the Lincoln Road area.
As a result, the city launched a program in September to expedite 90-day special event permits for pop-up retailers. Now, that program is filling empty space and generating buzz. “We were working on the program pre-pandemic, and the pandemic just made everything come together in a very sudden way that made it even more opportune,” Bittel said.
In late July, online lifestyle sneaker brand Air Kiy hosted its second pop-up in the district in the past six months, at 1655 Meridian Ave. For the first pop-up there, fans had lined up along the pedestrian promenade, and limited-release sneakers sold out within hours.
Other pop-ups in the district have become fixtures. Sol + Sorbet arrived last fall for a three-month pop-up and recently relocated to an expanded space at 821 Lincoln Road under a more traditional lease. Plant Daddy, a popular plant concept that grew a large online following, also signed a three-month pop-up last October, at 808 Lincoln Lane North. It renewed for six months and soon will expand into the space next door.
“We think these retailers are coming because they want to take advantage of this tremendous volume of pedestrian traffic, coupled with Lincoln Road as an open-air shopping destination so people in a pandemic world feel safer shopping outside,” said Bittel.
Pop-up spaces in the area range from 300 square feet to as much as 4,000 square feet. The latter was taken by Shein, an online retailer with a cult-like following. It has opened only a handful of in-store pop-ups across the country but set up a three-day location at 744 Lincoln Road during the annual Miami Swim Week fashion event. Reservations for the event sold out online in 48 hours.
Among the culinary concepts that have popped up in the district are The Salty doughnuts, fast-casual Indian concept Naan, Bagel Balls and The Dumpling Lady Miami.
How and why it works
Pop-up retailers typically start out in the Lincoln Road district with 90-day leases, and Bittel said most have found success and moved in to longer leases at market rent. “We think it is a great opportunity for us to bring new concepts to the street and at the same time give people an opportunity to try new concepts to see if it works,” he said. “It’s a perfect combination of what is good for the community, good for the property and good for the entrepreneurs opening up these smaller stores.”
Lincoln Rd Business Improvement District president Lyle Stern — who is also president of retail-focused, local brokerage firm Koniver Stern Group — said events and activations in available retail spaces have improved the shopping environment by appealing to a range of ages. “What these pop-ups do is help expose Lincoln Road to a demographic that may not be here all the time and vice versa,” he said.
Both Bittel and Stern said landlords that don’t have the advantages of the Lincoln Road location still can replicate its pop-up success. “Every community can do what we do,” said Stern. “You should throw away a lot of your old rules and dream as big as your tenants are dreaming and hope that you are putting in place the next Starbucks or that the next Warby Parker is going to be picking their first location with you. Give people a chance because if it works, everybody wins, and if it doesn’t work, you will find someone else and give someone else a chance.
Bittel put his own spin on it: “It is a first date, and if it goes good, we will renew them and it will be a second date. And if it really goes good, then maybe we are going to sign a real lease and get engaged. That is the opportunity for both of us, and we think that this idea of short-term commitments to see what works is probably going to be part of our future for a long time.”