There have been many reports in the past six months that claim the death of the American shopping mall is near and emphasize the growth of online shopping. According to Green Street Advisors, “About 15% of US malls will fail or be converted into non-retail space within the next 10 years…The risk of failure for a mall increases dramatically once you see anchor closures.”  There is truth to this, as companies such as Sears and JCPenney have been reporting more and more store closures each week. Many companies have begun adopting online shopping preferences and pick-up/ delivery options, developing their mobile apps, and are being forced to renovate and update many of their stores in order to compete with mega online companies such as Amazon and eBay. Even supermarkets have begun feeling the competitive edge and have added services such as Instacart, or online ordering and delivery services. While all of this may be true, it seems as though the state of Florida is exempt from these statistics and has had a sudden surge of retail developments. JLL research estimates that “more than 29% of all new retail deliveries in the US in the second quarter 2014 occurred in Florida.”  The Mall at University Town Center, The Miami Worldcenter, and the new project at Channelside Bay Plaza are the three largest projects, and together make up over two million sq.-ft. of retailing space.

The Mall at University Town Center at 140 University Town Center Dr., is a $315 million, 880,000 sq.-ft.  project and opens October 16 in Sarasota, Florida. The project was developed through the partnership of Taubman and Benderson Development Company, LLC. The construction of this 78-acre mall was in part performed by Key Glass, under the general contractor of DCK Worldwide, and brought in over $2.4 million of contract work for various jobs. The malls anchors are Saks, Macy’s and Dillards, and will include over 100 stores and 8 restaurants such as: Michael Kors, Anthropologie, Lululemon, Crate & Barrel, Sephora, Tesla Motors, Kona Grill, YO! Sushi, and Rise Pies. Eight of the stores will be opening their first Florida location here and three of these will be debuting their first US location. Yo! Sushi is one of these making its US debut and is expected to be responsible for drawing in many customers because of its uniqueness. The restaurant works off of a conveyor belt system and the food is on color coordinated plates which indicate the price.

The downside to this new shopping oasis? According to the Herald Tribune, there is only one entrance/exit that all customers must enter/exit through, which will undoubtedly be constantly congested, but once in, the mall will give customers the choice to valet their car for $5, park at one of the 16 electronic car charging stations, or park in one of the other 4,100 parking spaces. Overall, the citizens of Sarasota have reported being excited about the new mall and seem pleased to have access to many of their favorite stores and restaurants in a closer vicinity.

On October 3, 2014, The Miami Worldcenter won unanimous approval by Miami’s City Commission to begin building in late 2014/early 2015. It is one of the largest private master-planned projects in the US and its goal is to make downtown Miami even more enticing to visitors. Its website boasts that it will be more than 1 million sq.-ft. in retail space, will have a 600,000 sq.-ft. convention space, 7,000 new parking spaces, 1,800 rooms in the Marriott Marquis, and 4.5 acres of open space. This massive development has an impressive team of developers to ensure the reality of the project. In charge of the entire project is The Miami Worldcenter Associates led by Art Falcone and Nitin Motwani (Falcone Group and Centurion Partners); the Retail Developers are: The Forbes Company and Taubman Centers, Inc.; the Convention Developer is the MDM Group; and the Master Planner is Elkus Manfredi Architects. Together the groups have more than 100 years of experience and have worked on projects across the world. Nitin Motwani states, “Our master plan for Miami Worldcenter will transform ten blocks of urban blight into a thriving retail, residential and commercial destination while creating tens of thousands of local jobs and attracting new investment to the City’s urban core.” The location is seemingly perfect, and will be in the center of downtown “surrounded by a concentration of art, culture, and entertainment locales.” The retail portion of this project will be anchored by a 195,000 sq.-ft. Macy’s and a 120,000 sq.-ft. Bloomingdale’s. It is expected to significantly boost the economy by adding 35,000 jobs and thousands of new visitors. While some residents of Miami have expressed uncertainty over the development, it is hard not to get excited about its potential when looking at the website, which includes videos, maps, and pictures of the future space.

The name Jeff Vinik may not sound familiar to many Tampanians, but he is soon to become Tampa’s development king and will hopefully be responsible for resurrecting many of Tampa’s recently closed retail shops and restaurants. In 2010, Vinik bought the Tampa Bay Lightning and since, has gone on a shopping spree throughout the city. Vinik recently bought Channelside Bay Plaza, a place that used to be the “it” place to go and then slowly, within the past 5-10 years, began dwindling in its coolness. Now that Tampa is a major cruise port and is a hot spot for young adults, the potential of Channelside is exponential. Vinik isn’t the only one that sees this; Bill Gates announced that he will partner with Vinik on this project and Tod Leiweke, Vinik’s top lieutenant, stated that “This has the potential to be a billion-dollar development.” While construction won’t begin until 2016, there has already been a four phase plan laid out. Phase one will be the “nuts-and-bolts” where many of the mechanics will be worked out. Phase two will include immediate fixes on the Plaza including some remodeling and easy repairs. Phase three is when talks of which stores, restaurants, bars, and attractions will go in the site. Phase four will consist of plans for the area directly outside of Channelside. One aspect of this phase will include talks of a new hotel consisting of “400 hotel rooms, 50 residences above, 175,000 square feet of meeting space (roughly the size of three large Publix stores) and 45,000 square feet of retail space.” Vinik also purchased 719-room Marriot Waterside Hotel and Marina, which is part of Channelside, and plans a “dramatic remake of that area, with new hotels, office buildings, residential towers, and entertainment venues.” If all this wasn’t enough, on October 10, it was announced that Vinik bought a $3.1 million, 70,000 sq.-ft. property on South Howard, one the most popular roads in South Tampa. The group hasn’t decided how they will develop this property, but they have decided to keep the structure. There is already a buzz around the city and Tampanias cannot wait to see these plans come to life.

When adding up numbers for all of these developments, it equates to more than 2.5 million sq.-ft. and over $3.3 billion spent on buying, developing, and investing in the properties. While the Miami Worldcenter and the many developments in Tampa haven’t officially broken ground, they are definitely something that retail companies, restaurants, real estate companies, etc. should pay attention to and take advantage of. The potential for these centers is unprecedented and will have the ability take these already great cities to another level.