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Panelists, from left to right: Michael Comras, President and CEO, Comras Company (Moderator); David Forbes, Partner, The Forbes Company; Erich Melsheimer, Senior Director of Real Estate, Gap Inc.; Robert Cohen, President, Southern California RKF; Matthew Lazenby, President and CEO, Whitman Family Development. 


Big Brands Flocking to Miami Real Estate

South Florida’s retail landscape is not only posting rapid growth, it’s also seeing plenty of diversification. Major new retail centers like the $2 billion Miami Worldcenter and $1.2 billion Brickell City Centre are putting an exclamation point on that growth and diversity.

At the 2015 University of Miami Real Estate Impact Conference in February, an expert panel of industry leaders assessed the evolutionary and revolutionary nature of the dramatic changes taking place in the increasingly international and eclectic South Florida retail market.

The “Retail Evolution and Revolutions” panel featured Robert Cohen, President of retail leasing and investment sales brokerage firm RKF’s Southern California division; David Forbes, Partner at the Forbes Company, an owner and developer of iconic regional shopping centers and co-developer of Miami Worldcenter’s mall; Matthew Lazenby, President and CEO of Whitman Family Development; and Erich Melsheimer, Senior Director of Real Estate at The Gap Inc. Michael Comras, President and CEO of Comras Company, who is largely credited with shaping retail on Lincoln Road, moderated the discussion.

“Miami is now the third-biggest market after New York and L.A. for luxury retail,” said David Forbes. “There is enough room for all these projects not just to open but to be successful.”

Melsheimer boldly stated what industry watchers are thinking: Los Angeles and Miami are competing for the number two retail trade market after New York.

“The demand is so high for retail in Miami right now with all the international travelers, all the international business, all the incredible places to stay, and the art and entertainment,” he said. “It’s the hottest spot in the country today for luxury. It’s the place to be.”

Lazenby, a fourth-generation leader in the family-owned business that developed Bal Harbour Shops on Miami Beach and is now developing over 500,000 square feet of retail space at Brickell City Centre, said Miami is unique among U.S. cities.

“We have such a wonderful diverse global customer base,” he said. “But it’s really the tourist base that we rely upon most.”

As Miami comes into its own as an international gateway city, Forbes added, the strength of the global demographic and a local population continues to bolster the thriving growth of the markets.