More bad news for the struggling mall the Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami.

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November 24, 2020. by

The lead developer for The Shops at Sunset Place in South Miami said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filings last week they will not be redeveloping as planned. The long-struggling mall had been slated for a partial teardown. It would have had an addition of three new 17-story towers that would house apartments and hotel rooms.

Federal Realty Investment Trust CEO Don Wood said on an earnings conference call Nov.6, “There’s nothing more embarrassing to me than the Sunset Place failure. There’s a lot of good reasons for the failure, but still a failure.”

Federal Realty is a publicly traded REIT that owns 90% of the partnership that owns Sunset Place. The other partners are Miami-based Comras Co. and Grass River Property. They had purchased the mall for $110M in 2015 from Simon Property Group and in 2019 won permission from the city to redevelop it.

History of Sunset Place

The Holsum Bakery

Baking and Making Dough in South MiamiThe Holsum Bakery

The Holsum Bakery was a beloved neighbor off U.S. 1 from the FDR administration in the early 1930s to the Ronald Reagan era in 1982.

In 1934, the Fuchs Baking Company moved north from Homestead to South Miami in order to be closer to distribution markets. The bakery (later named “Holsum”) was a fixture on the city’s landscape for over four decades. Its landmark water tower and warm, comforting aroma of freshly-baked bread wafting throughout the city. Charles T. Fuchs, Jr. moved his business to the old Riviera Theater on US 1. According to the Miami News (1938), “The bakers of Holsum took over that super-super theater and set to convert it into something more practical, a super-super bakery.” The bakery was a very successful business, and Holsum bread became, as the News reports, “The most popular bakery product in South Florida.” The Holsum Bakery grew in the state of Florida. They even shipped bread to Puerto Rico, Cuba and Latin American countries.

The Bakery Centre

The Bakery Centre

In 1982, during the administration of Mayor Jack Block, the City of South Miami began to hear plans regarding a large-scale building project. On the 10.42 acre site of the old Holsum Bakery was to be rebuilt into a mall. It was to be named the “Bakery Centre.” The $35 million project was doomed from the day it opened. Within ten years, the planned mega-complex would be razed.

The demolished centre getting ready for the new Sunset Place

The Shops at Sunset Place

Sunset Place, which was built in 1999, an open-air shopping venue that features a majestic waterfall, a manmade jungle entrance and cascading fountain amidst a dramatic grand staircase. Offering a sensational line-up of stores such as A|X Armani Exchange, Banana Republic, Hollister, Origins, Pottery Barn and Z-Gallerie for the shopaholics. It also included several dining options and entertainment, including AMC 24 Movie Theater with stadium seating, Martini Bar, Barnes & Noble Superstore, GameWorks, Dan Marino’s restaurant and Cheeseburger in Paradise. The mall was a smashing success…at the beginning. Fast forward to the late 2010s, and the mall suffered from high vacancies and was hit hard by the coronavirus. A $60.6M non-recourse mortgage loan on the property matured Sept. 1 but was not repaid, and the lender declared the loan in default.

An empty mall during the pandemic

“It is unlikely we will move forward with the planned redevelopment or repay the mortgage loan at the current balance, and thus, do not expect we will be long-term holders of this asset,” Federal Realty wrote in a quarterly SEC filing Nov. 5. “While we continue to engage in negotiations with the lender. We expect our exit from the property would either be achieved through a short term extension of the loan, and an orderly sales process commencing in 2021. Last option would potentially, let the lender take control of the asset.” 

CEO Wood said, “First, the fits and starts with the entitlement process with the city resulted in precious time lost securing existing tenants and setting up new ones in a strong retail market of 2015, 2016 and 2017.” Construction costs rose during that time, Wood said.

What now?

“But even with all that, we were hopeful that we had a viable project with some reconfiguration of the master plan. Then came COVID. The previous strength of the anchor system — a full-size gym and LA Fitness, a big AMC theater , Splitsville and Game Time, along with the required hotel component — as part of the intensified site became obvious weaknesses that are likely to continue to remain so for some time. Given the other opportunities within our existing portfolio to invest capital, we’ve decided not to pursue redevelopment any longer there. Accordingly, we’re evaluating all of our disposition options.”

While Sunset Place has been problematic, Federal Realty reported strengths among its other holdings around the country. Its portfolio was 92.2% leased as of Sept. 30, and Federal Realty signed 101 leases in Q3 for 481K SF of retail space, according to a Nov. 5 announcement of Q3 operating results.

The updated COCOWALK in 2020

The same team behind Sunset Place is redeveloping CocoWalk in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. They announced last week that the property is 90% leased. The recently recruited trendy tenants including clothing shops Free People Movement, Europann and Late Night Gypsy.

Federal Realty’s Strategy

Wood described Federal Realty’s strategy of focusing on top centers in certain key locations. Luring the most desirable tenants, in order to be well-positioned several years from now. Amid the pandemic, that also includes not supporting tenants that are less than top-notch.

“What we are trying to do is not to kind of get back to where we were. But to effectively, in an over-retailed environment, make sure that on the other side of this we have better shopping,” Wood said. “In order to do that, we’re effectively cutting the deals that we need to cut with tenants that we think will be critically important on the other side. We are actively, frankly, not helping out the tenants that won’t make it and will produce more vacancy.” 

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