By ELAINE WALKER
The Miami Herald
Plans to turn Miami’s Design District into a high-end fashion destination are quickly gaining critical mass with more than two dozen luxury retailers like Fendi, Zegna and Bulgari on the way.
Louis Vuitton and Hermès were the first to announce plans last year to close stores at the Bal Harbour Shops and open in the Miami Design District.
Now, developer Craig Robins has confirmed the long-anticipated deal with parent company Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy to bring another 11 brands beyond its namesake company to the burgeoning area on the northern fringes of downtown Miami. They include Christian Dior, Fendi, Bulgari, Pucci, De Beers, Celine and Marc by Marc Jacobs.
Robins also officially announced the opening of Cartier, which will be one of 10 Richemont brands opening in the Design District. Other new tenants: Tom Ford, Zegna and Burberry, according to Robins.
“This demonstrates the viability and potential of the Miami Design District,” Robins said. “Our neighborhood has the potential to help redefine how fashion is merchandised in this country.”
Last year, Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Dior closed their boutiques at Bal Harbour; Vuitton opened at Aventura Mall. Most of the other LVMH brands are expected also to leave Bal Harbour and relocate to the Design District, while some will also open second locations in Aventura.
The departures haven’t seemed to hurt Bal Harbour, which had its best year in 2011, with annual sales of more than $600 million and average sales per square foot of $2,369 — the industry’s highest. New tenants recently opened or on the way include Alexander McQueen, Canali, Panerai, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and La Perla.
“In a strange way, Louis Vuitton closing created an opportunity for folks that would otherwise not have found a home here,” said Matthew Whitman Lazenby, Bal Harbour’s operating partner and the third generation of the Whitman family to run the business. “There’s no shortage of fantastic luxury tenants.”
Currently, Bal Harbour contracts include a “radius” clause that limits tenants from opening additional outlets within a specified number of miles. Management allowed waivers years ago for some tenants to open at the Village at Merrick Park and is considering a similar idea that would allow tenants to open in the Design District if they are willing to go to the second floor at Bal Harbour or move to a future expansion wing, Lazenby said.
Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Hermès, Celine, Pucci and Cartier are all expected to open at least temporary locations in the Design District by the end of this year. By 2014 Robins expects to have between 40 and 50 luxury retail brands, representing nearly 400,000 square feet of shopping space spread throughout the neighborhood.
The effort is intended to create a Miami version of New York’s SoHo or Meat Packing District.
“The Miami market is so underserved that there was a lot of interest in being able to do something new and add second locations,” Robins said.
“While the Design District is unproven, its central location and historic neighborhood make it a prime location for art, design, food and now fashion.”
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