The Future of Lincoln Road and Why One Business Leader Says We Shouldn’t Focus on the Vacancies

Lincoln Road

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

The Future of Lincoln Road and Why One Business Leader Says We Shouldn’t Focus on the Vacancies:

Instead, envision what the public spaces are about to become, he says

With the potential closing of the 39,000 sq. ft. Forever 21 store looming over Lincoln Road which already has an 18% vacancy rate (measured by number of storefronts), one business leader says “I really think we’ve been looking at it the wrong way.”
 
Lyle Stern is President of Koniver Stern, a retail leasing company based in the Lincoln Road District which owns 730 Lincoln Road and is invested in others. Stern, a member of the Board of the Lincoln Road Business Improvement District (BID), acknowledges the changing nature of retail is impacting communities across the country and Lincoln Road is not immune. But he believes Lincoln Road's public assets – the central space between the stores and restaurants that he refers to as an "18-acre park" – are on the beginning of a path to make the street an arts and culture, and even botanical, destination. As a result, he is more hopeful than concerned about Lincoln Road.
 
“I look at Lincoln Road differently,” he said.  “I’m trying to encourage all of us that live in Miami Beach to look at Lincoln Road differently." Instead of looking at the vacancies which he said is “the individual property owner’s issue,” he wants residents to see the community owned areas for what they can be once the planned $67 million makeover designed by James Corner is complete. To implement the plan, Miami Beach will foot the costs of construction and Lincoln Road property owners, who plan to increase their own taxes, will create events and other promotional opportunities to continue to bring people to the street during construction to minimize business disruption to retailers and restaurants and, ultimately, the City's tax base.

Stern says it's the first time in 30 years there will be an investment in Lincoln Road's public infrastructure. One of the features of the plan is to open up the central area of the pedestrian mall, highlighting the Morris Lapidus-designed follies and featuring them as backdrops for art exhibits, fashion shows, and performances. Sidewalk café tables will move closer to the restaurants and storefronts.
 
Stern is looking forward to the rejuvenation which he said will create “an amazing place” with experiences that might include poetry reading, musical performances and public art. “We want it to be our Central Park meets Bryant Park,” he said. “I encourage everyone I talk to to stop worrying about the vacancies. That’s not our issue as a community… we own what I think is an 18-acre park.”
 
“Lincoln Road will be a beautiful place with all these new public enhancements,” Stern said, adding he views the retail “as being secondary to having a great place to go. I really think we’ve been looking at it the wrong way.”
 
Emerging areas from Brickell to Wynwood to Little river have “lots of vacancies," he said, but “people go for the context of what’s there.” In Wynwood it’s the public art. In Little River, “cute little restaurants” are the attraction.
 
“As a community, we want this really interesting, dynamic place to go to and I think Lincoln Road will be that for our community” he said.
 
“If you’re a resident, I don’t know if your overarching concern is ‘Here are the retailers that I want there’ versus ‘What do I want my street, my city to be like.’ I think people do honestly care about the retail but they want interesting retail. It’s also fair to say we don’t want to have to go over the bay to get all of our essential things. I think we want a good, healthy mix of things that are interesting but first and foremost we want this really interesting place…” As a result, he said, the retail environment “will rise to the occasion. They go hand in hand.”
 
He pointed to the upcoming exhibit of monumental works of art by Botero. After walking out of Time Out Market when it initially opened, Stern said he noticed “thousands of people coming here” and having an amazing experience but “then walk out onto the street and that energy is lost.”
 
“How do we as a community benefit from that?” he asked. “Not how the retailers benefit, how the street as our community centerpiece benefits.”
 
After conversations with Oolite Arts CEO (formerly Art Center/South Florida), Dennis Scholl, Silvia Cubiña, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Bass, and fellow Lincoln Road property owner Paul Cejas about the potential for Lincoln Road as an arts and culture destination, Cejas connected Stern to Gary Nader who has a gallery in Wynwood. That connection led to a planned exhibition of 14 monumental bronze sculptures by world renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero to be presented by the Nader Art Museum and the Lincoln Road BID from November 21, 2019 through March 31, 2020.

Stern said the exhibit will be the first example of what Lincoln Road can be. Much like the Highline in New York which was also designed by James Corner, Stern said the street can feature “great public art from around the world” along with incredible landscaping. He envisions Lincoln Road as a place that will become important for the international art community as a place to display art.
 
Stern also sees the natural landscaping as part of the experience. When another Lincoln Road property owner, Stephen Bittel, chairman of Terranova, donated 1,000 orchids to Lincoln Road, Stern walked the street with Bruce Greer, President of the Board of Fairchild Gardens. As Greer pointed out the many species of plants on the mall, Stern said seeing it through Greer’s eyes changed his own view. “We have this amazing botanical garden that’s not properly curated, narrated, identified or thought of by any of us,” he said. Noting the City already has a botanical garden, he said it’s more of an eight to nine block “botanical installation [that] no one’s talking about.”
 
“Sometimes we don’t know what’s sitting in front of us,” Stern said. “I had no idea what we had. We’re very much at the beginning of defining something very special as a community that we’re all going to enjoy for decades to come.”
 
 
Renderings: James Corner Field Operations
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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